PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (10): 1514-1522.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.10.007

• Special Issue | Empirical Study • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact of international trade on regional skill upgrading: Analysis of prefecture-level cities in the mainland of China

LI Shiyang1,3,ZHU Huasheng1,2,*(),DING Yue1,4   

  1. 1. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. Beijing Key Laboratory of Environmental Remote Sensing and Digital City, Beijing Normal University, Beijing100875, China
    3. Real Estate College, Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai, Zhuhai 519087, Guangdong, China
    4. Chongqing Operations Office, the People's Bank of China, Chongqing 401120, China
  • Received:2019-05-27 Revised:2019-08-07 Online:2019-10-28 Published:2019-11-01
  • Contact: ZHU Huasheng
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(No. 41171098);National Key R&D Program of China(No. 2017YFA0603600)


With the gradual disappearance of China's demographic dividend, skill upgrading is becoming increasingly prominent. Studies have shown that the integration of developing countries into the global production network system does not necessarily lead to the upgrading of the skills of the labor force. Therefore, this study examines the impact of international trade on the upgrading of labor skills, using the panel data of major prefecture-level cities in the mainland of China in 2005, 2010 and 2015 for analysis. The results show that the overall impact of import and export trade is not significant. Specifically, export trade has a restraining effect on the employment of highly-skilled labor force while the technology diffusion effect produced by import trade has not yet appeared. Further, with regard to regional industrial geographical pattern, international trade affects inter-regional flow of labor force with different levels of skill, and the effect of trade on skill upgrading varies across different locations and city size characteristics. Import trade in coastal cities and large cities significantly promotes the employment of highly-skilled labor force and brings about the upgrading of regional labor skills. By contrast, for inland regions and small cities, export trade negatively affects the highly-skilled labor force, which results in a decrease of regional labor skills.

Key words: international trade, labor force, skill upgrading, human capital, China