Uneven development patterns in global value chains

Bruno Carballa Smichowski, Cédric Durand, Steven Knauss, 2016

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Summary & key words

This paper has three interconnected aims: proposing a novel and rigorous definition of a global value chain (GVC) that more easily permits the delineation of its frontiers; creating new indicators of GVC participation and value capture that can overcome the limitations of the existing ones; and offering empirical evidence demonstrating that participation in global value chains is part of an uneven development process that produces a variety of distinct integration patterns that differ with respect to economic and social outcomes.
The paper is structured as follows. Section 1 offers a definition of GVCs that conceives the latter as a specific form of the division of labor and therefore facilitates the delineation of the frontiers of a GVC. Building on this definition, Section 2 proposes new indicators to measure GVC participation and value capture. Section 3 provides empirical evidence to argue that, contrary to what mainstream economics and international organizations state, larger participation in GVCs does not necessarily lead to higher levels of value capture. Section 4 offers some theoretical justifications to interpret these findings and adds other measures such as the level of productive investment and dimensions of social outcomes in order to better understand differentiated development patterns in GVCs. Sections 5, 6 and 7 empirically show the heterogeneity of development patterns in GVCs for 51 countries between 1995 and 2008. Using country-level data on GVC participation, value capture, investment rates and social indicators (Gini coefficient, labor’s share of income, median income and employment rate), we perform a principal component analysis and a cluster analysis. We find three distinct development patterns in GVCs: reproduction of the core, immiserizing growth, and a social upgrading mirage. We conclude by underlying the apparent complementarity between these development patterns and by identifying some limitations of the paper that open the way to further research.


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