The smile curve evolving sources of value added in manufacturing

Tadashi ITO

A dramatic disordering of global manufacturing has been seen in recent years. Production processes have fragmented, and many production stages have been offshored to developing nations. Organization of this new global supply chain has evolved into what are often called global value chains (GVCs). Less studied, but no less important, is the shift in the sectoral source of value added in manufactured exports. This phenomenon, often called the “smile curve,” involves a swing in the share of value added in manufactured exports that is generated in the manufacturing sector itself instead of, for example, in the pre- and post-fabrication stages. Our paper presents new evidence quantifying the magnitude of the smile curve notion. Using international input–output databases, we find evidence supporting the smile curve at the aggregate level. Specifically, for almost all exporting sectors and nations, we find that the value added to exports has shifted decisively from the manufacturing sector to service sectors. We also find that developing countries reduced their own-sourcing service value-added share, while developed countries maintained their relatively high levels of own-sourcing service value-added share.