Xinshen Diao, Mia Ellis, Margaret McMillan, Dani Rodrik, 01 March 2021

Before Covid-19 struck, many economies in sub-Saharan Africa were expanding rapidly – faster than at any time since independence. Yet African growth accelerations were anomalous when viewed from the perspective of comparative development patterns; structural changes were accompanied by declining within-sector productivity growth in modern sectors. This column explores this anomaly in the context of African manufacturing using newly created firm-level panel data for Tanzania and Ethiopia. In both countries, there is a sharp dichotomy between larger firms that exhibit superior productivity performance but do not expand employment much, and small firms that absorb employment but do not experience any productivity growth. These patterns appear to be related to technological advances in global manufacturing which are making it more capital intensive.

Rafael Dix-Carneiro, Brian Kovak, 23 August 2017

The effects of foreign competition have been shown to vary substantially across regions within a country. Using administrative and household survey data from Brazil, this column examines the various margins of adjustment in response to trade-induced regional shocks. The results demonstrate a key role for the non-tradable sector and informal employment in the adjustment process.

Brian McCaig, Nina Pavcnik, 04 August 2015

Finding employment in the formal sector in developing countries is difficult. Countries with an abundance of informal firms suffer from low aggregate productivity. This column suggests that as countries develop, more workers transition from the informal to the formal sector. A ten-year period of rapid growth in Vietnam displayed a decrease in the employment in the informal sector in favour of the formal one. Most of it was due to changing cohorts in the workforce. In addition, this transition leads to gains in aggregate productivity in the formalised sectors.

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