ADI Academic Profiles - Jakob Roland Munch

By Mads Vesterager Nielsen, Asian Dynamics Initiative

ADI Academic Profiles series puts spotlight on individual researchers working on Asia related issues in the social sciences and humanities, and promotes remarkable publications and innovative research projects.

Jakob Roland Munch

Jakob Roland Munch, Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, co-authored the article: The Wage Effects of Offshoring: Evidence from Danish Matched Worker-Firm Datawhich was published recently in the prestigious economic journal: American Economic Review (AER).

The interview was conducted in Jakob Roland Munch's office at the Faculty of Social Sciences' campus. 

Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Could you explain the main outlines of the article?

Well, in short the article explains how outsourcing, or offshoring, affects the wages of Danish workers. For example, if a shoe manufacturer chooses to buy single product bits, like shoelaces in other countries to limit production costs, this could endanger the jobs of the workers who were originally producing these bits, while at the same time improving the wages of the workers, whose jobs are not offshored. We find that offshoring hurts low-skilled workers in particular, while high-skilled benefit overall, but we are not the first to look at the interaction between offshoring, wages and skills.  What is new is that we find that also high-skilled workers are hurt if they perform routine intensive tasks. On the other hand, certain university degrees in for example social science, communication and language appear to shield workers from the offshoring threat.

When you wrote the article, did you anticipate that your article would end up in AER?

The ambition was that our work would be published in one of the major economic journals. The work on this article has been more than eight years under way. Although this is a long time, my personal record is a previous article, which was more than ten years in the works. And this is not something I am proud of.

What has this publication meant for you, and if I may ask – isn’t it a kind of dream come true?

It is the first time I publish in a so-called top 5 economics journal and of course I am happy to get the paper out in AER. But equally rewarding is that our work, on what I believe is an important and relevant issue, has been recognized by a leading journal. As a consequence I have been invited to deliver keynote speeches at policy conferences, and we have been asked to write follow-up papers for various outlets. In the end, it might mean that our paper could actually have some impact on implemented labor market and education policies.

Could you give some advice to academics with hopes of publishing articles in renowned academic journals themselves?

At the risk of sounding a bit cliché, you really need to be prepared to spend a lot of time on your project. But looking back there is one thing that clearly sticks out to me from this process; it is that you have to convey your research to the right people, in order to get useful and highly competent feedback and to make potential referees aware of your work.

What is the next step now?

I have several projects going on - all with more or less the same group of authors. We have just received a grant from The Danish Research Council to conduct research on how globalization and offshoring affects the health condition of Danes. Besides that we also have several other projects for example on how import competition from China affects firms and workers in Denmark.

Through his work he travels a lot, and as Jakob Roland Munch notes, this has its advantages: “Had it not been for my ADI affiliation I would probably not have been able to visit Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and the Great Wall over the past couple of years”, he says.

Many thanks to Jakob Roland Munch for participating in the interview.

December 2014

Read more about Jakob Roland Munch's research and publications here.