Reconfigurations in automotive Global Value Chains (GVC) and its impact on Portuguese employment

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2021)


employment, global value chains, Portugal, Transition, Work Organization


In this paper we will address the impacts on work and employment in Portugal of undergoing reconfigurations in automotive Global Value Chains (GVC). Due to its contributions to employment, exports and production the automotive sector is regarded as strategic for Portugal. Currently, it is caught in the midst of a turmoil, spurred by major trends that are reshaping its global outlook, with perils and opportunities for firms and workers depending on their position in different segments of GVC. The emergence of GVC transformed the patterns of international division of labour, trade and investment. Countries and regions specialize not only in products and services but increasingly in tasks and functions. Value is created globally and is apportioned along the chain depending on the tasks performed, the resources and type of workforce engaged in production in each node, its geographical location and the relative power relations within the production network. Typically, along GVC’s production stages, labour intensive, low skill tasks are ascribed – offshored and subcontracted by lead firms – to firms and workers in peripheral countries, while knowledge intensive, more complex or higher skilled tasks are retained in core regions. The value captured, as well as the share of value ascribed to labour and the quality of employment, are broadly correlated with its position in the chain. GVC, besides firms or even sectors, thus become an appropriate locus for analysing labour processes and employment patterns.
Major trends reconfiguring automotive global networks of production, include: (i) automation; (ii) digitalisation; (iii) electrification of vehicles; (iv) shifting geographies of production; and (v) industrial, employment and social policies. Manufacture of vehicles is known to be an automation-intensive sector permeated by technological developments such as new cyber-physical systems and flexible lightweight robots with an impact on work and employment, particularly on low-skilled workers. National and regional industrial, trade and investment policies articulated with company strategies, are also participating in the reshaping of the automotive GVC and changing the geographies of production. Finally, employment and social policies impinge on and are conditioned by foreign investment and location decisions of automotive multinationals, thus participating in the reshaping of GVC. In order to respond to the main overarching research question (what are the actual and prospective impacts on work and employment in Portugal driven by transitions taking place in the automotive GVC?) an analytical model will be designed. It will place the ongoing and prospective transformations of work and employment patterns as consequence of the interplay of actor’s strategies and public policies, against the background of structures and institutions. The research study will be based on major OEM operating in Portugal (VW, Stellantis, Mitsubishi and Toyota) and on automotive supply chain companies, most of them major player on the automotive GVC (Faurecia, KWD, Vintech, Sodecia, Preh).


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