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The walking dead? Zombie firms and productivity performance in OECD countries

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Listed:
  • Müge Adalet McGowan
  • Dan Andrews
  • Valentine Millot
  • Thorsten BeckManaging Editor

Abstract

This paper explores the extent to which ‘zombie’ firms – defined as old firms that have persistent problems meeting their interest payments – are stifling labour productivity performance. The results show that the prevalence of and resources sunk in zombie firms have risen since the mid-2000s and that the increasing survival of these low productivity firms at the margins of exit congests markets and constrains the growth of more productive firms. Controlling for cyclical effects, cross-country analysis shows that within-industries over the period 2003–13, a higher share of industry capital sunk in zombie firms is associated with lower investment and employment growth of the typical non-zombie firm and less productivity-enhancing capital reallocation. Besides limiting the expansion possibilities of healthy incumbent firms, market congestion generated by zombie firms can also create barriers to entry and constrain the post-entry growth of young firms. Finally, we link the rise of zombie firms to the decline in OECD potential output growth through two key channels: business investment and multi-factor productivity growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Müge Adalet McGowan & Dan Andrews & Valentine Millot & Thorsten BeckManaging Editor, 2018. "The walking dead? Zombie firms and productivity performance in OECD countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 33(96), pages 685-736.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecpoli:v:33:y:2018:i:96:p:685-736.
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dan Andrews & Filippos Petroulakis, 2017. "Breaking the Shackles: Zombie Firms, Weak Banks and Depressed Restructuring in Europe," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1433, OECD Publishing.
    2. Avouyi-Dovi, S. & Lecat, R. & O’Donnell, C. & Bureau, B. & Villetelle, J-P., 2016. "Are insolvent firms being kept afloat by excessively low interest rates?," Rue de la Banque, Banque de France, issue 29, september.
    3. Dan Andrews & Chiara Criscuolo & Peter N. Gal, 2016. "The Best versus the Rest: The Global Productivity Slowdown, Divergence across Firms and the Role of Public Policy," OECD Productivity Working Papers 5, OECD Publishing.
    4. Dan Andrews & Alessandro Saia, 2017. "Coping with creative destruction: Reducing the costs of firm exit," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1353, OECD Publishing.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    D24; E22; G32; O16; O40; O47;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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