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Who are the microenterprise owners ? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. de Soto

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Listed:
  • de Mel, Suresh
  • McKenzie, David
  • Woodruff, Christopher

Abstract

Is the vast army of the self-employed in low income countries a source of employment generation? This paper uses data from surveys in Sri Lanka to compare the characteristics of own account workers (non-employers) with wage workers and with owners of larger firms. The authors use a rich set of measures of background, ability, and attitudes, including lottery experiments measuring risk attitudes. Consistent with the International Labor Organization's views of the self employed (represented by Tokman), the analysis finds that two-thirds to three-quarters of the own account workers have characteristics which are more like wage workers than larger firm owners. This suggests the majority of the own account workers are unlikely to become employers. Using a two and a half year panel of enterprises, the authors show that the minority of own account workers who are more like larger firm owners are more likely to expand by adding paid employees. The results suggest that finance is not the sole constraint to growth of microenterprises, and provides an explanation for the low rates of growth of enterprises supported by microlending.

Suggested Citation

  • de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2008. "Who are the microenterprise owners ? Evidence from Sri Lanka on Tokman v. de Soto," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4635, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4635
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. de Mel, Suresh & McKenzie, David & Woodruff, Christopher, 2009. "Innovative Firms or Innovative Owners? Determinants of Innovation in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises," IZA Discussion Papers 3962, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. John Bennett & Matthew D. Rablen, 2015. "Self-employment, wage employment, and informality in a developing economy," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(2), pages 227-244.
    3. Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice?," NFI Working Papers 2008-WP-13, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    4. Silvia Ardagna & Annamaria Lusardi, 2010. "Explaining International Differences in Entrepreneurship: The Role of Individual Characteristics and Regulatory Constraints," NBER Chapters,in: International Differences in Entrepreneurship, pages 17-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Cho, Yoonyoung & Honorati, Maddalena, 2014. "Entrepreneurship programs in developing countries: A meta regression analysis," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 110-130.
    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. Camilo Mondragón-Vélez & Ximena Peña, 2010. "Business Ownership and Self-Employment in Developing Economies: The Colombian Case," NBER Chapters,in: International Differences in Entrepreneurship, pages 89-127 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Melanie Khamis, 2012. "A Note On Informality In The Labour Market," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(7), pages 894-908, October.
    9. Akay, Alpaslan & Khamis, Melanie, 2011. "The Persistence of Informality: Evidence from Panel Data," IZA Discussion Papers 6163, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Silvia Ardagna & Annamaria Lusardi, 2009. "Where does regulation hurt? Evidence from new businesses across countries," NBER Working Papers 14747, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Antoinette Schoar, 2010. "The Divide between Subsistence and Transformational Entrepreneurship," Innovation Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(1), pages 57-81.
    12. Lixin Colin Xu, 2011. "The Effects of Business Environments on Development: Surveying New Firm-level Evidence," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 26(2), pages 310-340, August.
    13. Drugov, Mikhail & Macchiavello, Rocco, 2008. "Learning and Microlending," CEPR Discussion Papers 7011, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Emmanuel Skoufias & Phillippe Leite & Renata Narita, 2013. "Expanding Microfinance in Brazil: Credit Utilisation and Performance of Small Firms," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(9), pages 1256-1269, September.
    15. Bruhn, Miriam, 2013. "A tale of two species: Revisiting the effect of registration reform on informal business owners in Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 275-283.
    16. Hasan, Rana & Jandoc, Karl Robert L., 2009. "Quality of Jobs in the Philippines: Comparing Self-Employment with Wage Employment," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 148, Asian Development Bank.
    17. Dang, Hai-Anh & Lanjouw, Peter & Luoto, Jill & McKenzie, David, 2014. "Using repeated cross-sections to explore movements into and out of poverty," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 112-128.
    18. Callen, Michael, 2015. "Catastrophes and time preference: Evidence from the Indian Ocean Earthquake," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 199-214.
    19. Janina León C., 2012. "Educación, seguridad social y mercados de trabajo en el Perú," Capítulos de Libros PUCP / Chapters of PUCP books,in: Cecilia Garavito & Ismael Muñoz (ed.), EMPLEO Y PROTECCIÓN SOCIAL, edition 1, chapter 10, pages 331-355 Fondo Editorial - Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.
    20. repec:wly:jintdv:v:29:y:2017:i:4:p:473-499 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labor Markets; Tertiary Education; Work&Working Conditions; Microfinance;

    JEL classification:

    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship

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