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CEP discussion paper

Threshold Effects and Firm Size: the Case of Firing Costs


We study the role of employment protection legislation (EPL) in determining firm size distribution. In many countries the provisions of EPL are more stringent for firms above certain size thresholds. We construct a simple model that shows that the smooth relation between size and growth probability is interrupted in proximity of the thresholds at which EPL applies differentially. We use a comprehensive longitudinal dataset of all Italian firms, a country with an important threshold at 15 employees, to estimate the effects of EPL in terms of discouraging small firms from growing. We find that the probability of firms ' growth in the proximity of the threshold is reduced by around 2 percentage points. Using the stochastic transition matrix for firm size, we compute the long-run effects of EPL on size distribution. We find that average firm size would increase by less than 1% in steady state when removing the threshold; a quantitatively modest effect.


Fabiano Schivardi and Roberto Torrini

May 2004     Paper Number CEPDP0633

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