Inequality, Skills and Globalization

21-22 juin 2012
Polytech' Lille Campus of the University of Lille 1, Avenue Paul Langevin, 59655 Villeneuve d'Ascq cedex, France. - Lille (France)

Following a decline in the sixties and seventies, income inequality has known an upsurge in most of the advanced countries during the thirty last years. Despite this general diagnosis, the moment of this reversal as well as its intensity critically differs across countries. The US and the UK show the earliest and most severe increases in inequality. Scandinavian countries have witnessed more moderate increases and inequality still remains low in these economies. Southern European countries have been characterised by a medium or moderate increase in inequality, but inequality was so elevated there that these countries remain highly non-egalitarian. Western Continental Europe (Belgium, France, Germany) and Japan have known either a low increase, or a stagnation in inequality during the thirty last years, and their inequality lies between the Scandinavian and the Anglo-Saxon/Southern Europe levels. Finally, growing inequality has come with an increase in the working poor in most of the advanced countries. Over the same period, income inequalities in emerging countries have shown rather contrasted changes. Until the early nineties, the reduction of inequality in East Asian countries seemed to confirm the Heckscher-Ohlinian prediction of a decrease in the skill premium. This result has subsequently been disputed when considering (i) the rise in inequality in Latin America and (ii) the fact that inequality has increased in most of the Asian countries since the mid-nineties. A number of recent empirical works conclude that openness has increased inequality in emerging countries, with however critical differences across countries. This conference aims at gathering the newest analyses concerning the economics of growing inequality and changing poverty within both advanced (the North) and emerging (the South) countries, with a special emphasis on their links with the process of globalisation. As regards Northern countries, three major explanations for growing inequalities have been put forward, namely, institutional changes, globalisation (North-South trade) and technical change. In these countries, several authors have also diagnosed the emergence of an inequality-unemployment trade-off. For emerging countries, a number of factors linked to globalisation may have increased inequality: higher prices of natural resources that are in the hands of a minority, North-South technological transfers that increase the demand for skilled workers, cornering of new more skill-intensive goods etc. These growing within-country inequalities question the possibility of implementing pro-equality public policies, as well as their efficiency within a globalised World. Finally, in the longer term, the persistence of both within and between country inequalities are to a large extent determined by the educational attainment and skill convergence of the population(s), and thus by the intergenerational skill dynamics. Over the last twenty years, all these subjects have given rise to an abundant theoretical and empirical economic literature.
Discipline scientifique : Economies et finances

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