Slicing Up Global Value Chains: A Micro View


Global value chains, GVCs, have had a transformative impact on the world economy since the early 1990s. We study 45 specific GVCs with company-confidential invoice-level data. We find that the case companies’ headquartering functions capture a large share of the overall value added, 27 % on average. The value added shares of other functions are as follows: distribution 21 %, final assembly 16 %, and logistics 5 %. The remaining 30 % of the value added goes to vendors. Upon considering value added by country, we find that the home economy’s share is 47 % on average. This share is reduced with offshored—as opposed to Finnish—final assembly: 2 percentage points for a high-end smartphone, over ten percentage points for a low-end feature phone, and 27 percentage points for machinery and metal products. We attribute the latter large drop to co-location of non-assembly functions, intellectual property issues, transfer pricing, and profit allocation. We conclude that GVCs are complex and heterogeneous; value chains of basic products and services are not nearly as global as those of advanced ones; and the value added share of wholesaling and retail is large in consumer products. We nevertheless argue that value added is less tied to assembly—and other tangible aspects of GVCs—than conventional wisdom suggests; the intangible aspects— market and internal services, and creation and appropriation of intellectual property—are more important. The increasing presence of GVCs brings about several thorny policy issues that are yet to be addressed.

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Jyrki Ali-Yrkkö
Petri Rouvinen
Publication date: 
February 10, 2015
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Ali-Yrkkö, J., Rouvinen, P. Slicing Up Global Value Chains: a Micro View. J Ind Compet Trade 15, 69–85 (2015).