Trade Reforms, Mark-Ups and Bargaining Power of Workers: The Case of Ethiopian Manufacturing Firms

Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA)
Worku Gebeyehu


There is a predominant preposition in trade theory that firms operating in an
imperfect market with trade barriers often set prices with a positive mark-up.
Workers using insider information tend to bargain and share the rent from
firms’ market power; which is negatively associated with to decline with trade
reforms. Empirical evidences are, nonetheless, mixed. Trade reforms that took
place between 1991 and 2002 in Ethiopia inspired the study to investigate the
proposition. Using firm level unbalanced data of manufacturing firms
employing more than 100 permanent workers between 1996 and 2007, a
model of mark-up with labor bargaining power was estimated using random
effects and LDPDM. The estimates of the two models are similar. Albeit huge
inter-firm variations, the average estimated mark-ups has not only been
positive but also increased even after the reform. This may be perhaps because
of the 17.5 percent weighted average tariff rate that has still been maintained
after the reform. Workers’ bargaining power parameter estimate remained
negative over the study period; possibly because of high unemployment and
low reservation wage. The rate of rent extraction from workers declined on
average in the post reform period. Thus, further opening up of markets may
bring a competitive push to improve firm performance, reduce market power
of firms and the rent extraction from workers. There is a need to attract
additional investment (both public and private) in the economy and
addressing causes of capacity underutilization of incumbent firms may lessen
unemployment problems and thereby improve workers bargaining power and
their earnings.