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CEP discussion paper

Firm Size Distortions and the Productivity Distribution: Evidence from France


We show how size-contingent laws can be used to identify the equilibrium and welfare effects of labor regulation. Our framework incorporates such regulations into the Lucas (1978) model and applies it to France where many labor laws start to bind on firms with 50 or more employees. Using population date on firms between 1995 and 2007, we structurally estimate the key parameters of our model to construct counterfactual size, productivity and welfare distributions. We find that the cost of these regulations is equivalent to that of a 2.3% variable tax on labor. In our baseline case with French levels of partial real wage inflexibility welfare costs of the regulations are 3.4% of GDP (falling to 1.3% if real wages were perfectly flexible downwards). The main losers from the regulation are workers – and to a lesser extent, large firms – and the main winners are small firms.


Luis Garicano, Claire Lelarge and John Van Reenen

Revised June 2016     Paper Number CEPDP1128

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Growth programme.