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Firing Cost and Firm Size: A Study of Sri Lanka's Severance Pay System

Author

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  • Abidoye, Babatunde
  • Orazem, Peter
  • Vodopivec, Milan

Abstract

Sri Lanka's Termination of Employment of Workmen Act (TEWA) requires that firms with 15 or more employees justify layoffs and provide generous severance pay to displaced workers, with smaller firms being exempted. Athough formally subject to TEWA, firms in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) may have been partially exempt from TEWA due to lax enforcement in that sector. A theoretical model shows that firms subject to TEWA will tend to mass at or below the threshold of 14 workers until they get an atypically large productivity shock that would propel them beyond the threshold. EPZ firms will be largely unaffected by the law. In addition, EPZ firms receive preferential tax treatment and exemptions from customs duty. Consequently, firms that anticipate rapid growth will have an incentive to locate in the EPZ sector. We test these predictions using 1995-2003 panel data on the universe of all private, formal sector firms in Sri Lanka. We find that at all sizes, EPZ firms are more likely to add employees than nonEPZ firms. Above the threshold, nonEPZ firms are more likely to shed workers while EPZ firms are more likely to add workers. Once passing the threshold, nonEPZ firms grow faster than nonEPZ firms below the threshold, consistent with a theoretical prediction that only atypically productive nonEPZ firms would cross the threshold. Finally, evidence is consistent with the the hypothesis that TEWA restrictions retard the growth of nonEPZ firms below the threshold, but only some of the evidence passes tests of statistical significance. The combined impacts of retarded growth below the threshold, the need for a large productivity shock to cross the threshold, and slower employment growth above the threshold suggest that the TEWA failed to lower unemployment. Instead, it slowed employment growth of nonEPZ firms and induced other firms to seek the EPZ sector in order to evade the law.

Suggested Citation

  • Abidoye, Babatunde & Orazem, Peter & Vodopivec, Milan, 2008. "Firing Cost and Firm Size: A Study of Sri Lanka's Severance Pay System," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12922, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:12922
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Piggott, John & Sane, Renuka, 2009. "Indexing pensions," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52445, The World Bank.
    2. Parsons, Donald O., 2011. "Mandated Severance Pay and Firing Cost Distortions: A Critical Review of the Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 5776, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Holzmann, Robert, 2010. "Bringing Financial Literacy and Education to Low and Middle Income Countries: The Need to Review, Adjust, and Extend Current Wisdom," IZA Discussion Papers 5114, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. James, Estelle, 2009. "Rethinking survivor benefits," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52919, The World Bank.
    5. Donald O. Parsons, 2013. "Understanding severance pay," Cuadernos de Economía - Spanish Journal of Economics and Finance, ELSEVIER, vol. 36(102), pages 155-165, Diciembre.
    6. David McKenzie, 2010. "Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development: What Have We Learned and What Should We Learn?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 209-233, August.
    7. Milan Vodopivec, 2013. "Introducing unemployment insurance to developing countries," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, December.
    8. Rita K. Almeida & Z. Bilgen Susanlı, 2012. "Firing Regulations and Firm Size in the Developing World: Evidence from Differential Enforcement," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(4), pages 540-558, November.
    9. Luis Garicano & Claire Lelarge & John Van Reenen, 2016. "Firm Size Distortions and the Productivity Distribution: Evidence from France," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(11), pages 3439-3479, November.
    10. Woo, Kye Lee, 2009. "Productivity increases in SMEs : with special emphasis on in-service training of workers in Korea," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 51251, The World Bank.
    11. Danielle Venn, 2009. "Legislation, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement: Updating the OECD Employment Protection Indicators," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 89, OECD Publishing.
    12. Chae, ChangKyun & Chung, Jaeho, 2009. "Pre-employment vocational education and training in Korea," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52186, The World Bank.
    13. Lord, Janet & Posarac, Aleksandra & Nicoli, Marco & Peffley, Karen & Mcclain-Nhlapo, Charlotte & Keogh, Mary, 2010. "Disability and international cooperation and development : a review of policies and practices," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 56092, The World Bank.
    14. Ra, Young-Sun & Shim, Kyung Woo, 2009. "The Korean case study : past experience and new trends in training policies," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 53696, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    severance; firing costs; layoff restrictions; Sri Lanka; employment growth; export promotion; threshold;

    JEL classification:

    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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