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The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka

Author

Listed:
  • de Mel, Suresh

    () (University of Peradeniya)

  • McKenzie, David

    () (World Bank)

  • Woodruff, Christopher

    () (University of Oxford)

Abstract

The majority of firms in most developing countries are informal. We conducted a field experiment in Sri Lanka which provided incentives for informal firms to formalize. Offering only information about the registration process and reimbursement for direct registration costs had no impact on formalization. Adding payments equivalent to one-half to one month's profits for the median firm leads to registration of around one-fifth of firms. A larger payment equivalent to two month's median profits induces half of the firms to register. Among the firms not registering after being offered this larger incentive, many faced issues related to ownership of land. Three follow-up surveys at 15 to 31 months after the intervention measure the impact formalizing has on these firms. Although mean profits increase, this appears largely due to the experiences of a few firms which grew rapidly, with most firms experiencing no increase in income as a result of formalizing. We also find little evidence for most of the channels through which formalization is hypothesized to benefit firms, although formalized firms do advertise more. Finally, formalizing is found to result in a large increase in trust in the state.

Suggested Citation

  • de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2012. "The Demand for, and Consequences of, Formalization among Informal Firms in Sri Lanka," IZA Discussion Papers 6442, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6442
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David J. & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Measuring microenterprise profits: Must we ask how the sausage is made?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1), pages 19-31, January.
    2. Fajnzylber, Pablo & Maloney, William F. & Montes-Rojas, Gabriel V., 2011. "Does formality improve micro-firm performance? Evidence from the Brazilian SIMPLES program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 262-276, March.
    3. Miriam Bruhn, 2011. "License to Sell: The Effect of Business Registration Reform on Entrepreneurial Activity in Mexico," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 382-386, February.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:04:p:765-789_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Miguel Jaramillo, 2013. "Is there demand for formality among informal firms? Evidence from microfirms in downtown Lima," Avances de Investigación 0013, Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE).
    6. David Kaplan & Eduardo Piedra & Enrique Seira, 2006. "Are Burdensome Registration Procedures an Important Barrier on Firm Creation? Evidence from Mexico," Discussion Papers 06-013, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    7. Rafael La Porta & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(2 (Fall)), pages 275-363.
    8. Marianne Bertrand & Francis Kramarz, 2002. "Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation? Evidence from the French Retail Industry," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1369-1413.
    9. repec:hrv:faseco:33078210 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1403-1448.
    11. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Galiant & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2007. "The Formation of Beliefs: Evidence from the Allocation of Land Titles to Squatters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 209-241.
    12. McKenzie, David & Seynabou Sakho, Yaye, 2010. "Does it pay firms to register for taxes? The impact of formality on firm profitability," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 15-24, January.
    13. Kaplan, David S. & Piedra, Eduardo & Seira, Enrique, 2011. "Entry regulation and business start-ups: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1501-1515.
    14. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
    15. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
    16. Guillermo E. Perry & William F. Maloney & Omar S. Arias & Pablo Fajnzylber & Andrew D. Mason & Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, 2007. "Informality : Exit and Exclusion," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6730, November.
    17. Klapper, Leora & Laeven, Luc & Rajan, Raghuram, 2006. "Entry regulation as a barrier to entrepreneurship," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 591-629, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    small enterprises; entrepreneurship; informality;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship

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