Abstract: As in other industrialised countries, the manufacturing sector in Italy has recently experienced a substantial increase in the use of skilled relative to unskilled workers- skill upgrading. In this paper we estimate a model, based upon the notion of outsourcing, of the relative demand for skilled labour which allows identification of the roles of technological change and trade, the two main culprits, in skill upgrading. Compared to previous studies of Italy the model is applied to highly disaggregated industrial data and in addition the impact of trade is more precisely measured through the separate identification of import flows from low-wage labour abundant countries and those from OECD partners. Furthermore we also introduce a measure of trade variability. Our results show firstly that economic variables played little or no role in determining the relative demand for unskilled workers in the 1970s in Italy, reflecting the nature of Italian labour market institutions in the period. Subsequently, in the 1980s and 1990s, following some labour market reforms, we find that international competition, in terms of import penetration and the variability of trader price, had a significant effect on the relative demand for blue-collar workers in Italy in skilled intensive sectors. In unskilled intensive sectors, such as textiles and clothing, where the impact of imports from low-wage countries might be expected to be more pronounced, we do not find a significant effect from imports but rather that the most important role has been played by technological change. The result is consistent with previous studies that indicate that Italian textile and clothing firms have remained internationally competitive by increasingly switching to high quality segments of the industry.