Firm Ownership and Internal Labour Practices in a Transition Economy

34 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2004

See all articles by Jed Friedman

Jed Friedman

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG); World Bank Group


One feature common to many post-socialist transition economies is a relatively compressed wage structure in the state-owned sector. We conjecture that this compressed wage structure creates weak incentives for work effort and worker skill acquisition and thus presents adverse consequences for the entire transition economy if a substantial portion of the labour force works in the state sector. We explore firm wage incentives and worker training, as well as other labour practices and outcomes, in a transition setting with matched firm and worker data collected in one of the largest provinces of Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese state sector exhibits a compressed wage distribution in relation to privately owned firms with foreign ownership. State wage practices stress tenure over worker productivity and their wage policies result in flatter wage-experience profiles and lower returns to education. The state work force is in greater need of formal training, a need that is in part met through direct government financing. In spite of the opportunities for government financed training and at least partly due to inefficient worker incentives, state firms, by certain measures, exhibit lower levels of labour productivity. The private sector comparison group to state firms for all of these findings is foreign owned firms. The internal labour practices of foreign firms are more consistent with a view of profit-maximizing firms operating with no political constraints. This is not the case for Vietnamese private firms that exhibit much more idiosyncratic behaviour and whose labour practices are often indistinguishable from state firms. The exact reasons for this remain a topic of on-going research yet we conjecture that various private sector constraints, including limited access to formal capital, play an important role.

Suggested Citation

Friedman, Jed Arnold, Firm Ownership and Internal Labour Practices in a Transition Economy. Economics of Transition, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 333-366, June 2004. Available at SSRN:

Jed Arnold Friedman (Contact Author)

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

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World Bank Group ( email )

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