Poverty reduction is an increasingly important consideration in the deliberations over multilateral trade liberalization. However, the analytical procedures used to assess the impacts of multilateral trade liberalization on poverty are rudimentary, at best. Most poverty studies have focused on a single country using detailed household survey data. When it comes to multi-country, global trade liberalization analyses, researchers are forced to resort to a discussion of average, or per capita effects, suggesting that if per capita real income rises, then poverty will fall. As we show in this paper, such an inference can be misleading. Our paper combines results from a new international, cross-section consumption analysis, with earnings data from household surveys, to analyze the implications of multilateral trade liberalization for poverty in Indonesia. By emphasizing the earnings-side of the poverty story, we complement earlier studies of poverty that have tended to emphasize consumption determinants, often to the exclusion of earnings impacts. Specifically, we stratify households according to their primary source of income, identifying those that are specialized (95% or more of their income) in agriculture enterprises, non-agriculture enterprises, wage/salary labor, and transfers. All other households are considered to be diversified, and therefore less vulnerable to trade shocks. Since previous multi-region analyses have focused on the per capita effects, and since the techniques for explaining these impacts of multilateral trade liberalization are well understood, we decompose the departures of key households'’ welfare from these per capita effects. These differences are explained in terms of deviations in consumption and earnings patterns. We find that the differences in earnings patterns are relatively more important in explaining the changes in poor households’' welfare. We find that the national headcount measure of poverty in Indonesia is reduced following global trade liberalization, in both the short and the long run. We also decompose the poverty changes in Indonesia associated with different countries’' trade policies. We find that liberalization in other countries'’ policies leads to a reduction in the national poverty in Indonesia, while liberalization of Indonesia’'s trade policies leads to an increase in the poverty headcount. The biggest poverty impacts are due to liberalization of developed country trade policies – and among these policies, it is the removal agricultural trade barriers that lead to the greatest reduction in Indonesia’'s poverty headcount. However, the aggregate reduction in Indonesia’'s national poverty headcount masks a more complex set of impacts among different groups. In the short run, the poverty headcount actually rises for self-employed, non-agricultural households, as well as for households that are wholly dependent on transfers for their income. In the long run, the poverty headcount falls for all earnings strata in Indonesia, as the increased demand for unskilled workers lifts incomes for the formerly self-employed, some of whom move into the wage labor market.

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GTAP Working Paper No. 16 Revised

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-24

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