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Access to skilled labor, institutions and firm performance in developing countries

Charilaos Mertzanis (School of Business, Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Mona Said (Department of Economics, School of Business, American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 12 February 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of access to skilled labor in explaining firms’ sales growth subject to the controlling influence of a wide range of firm-specific characteristics and country-level economic and non-economic factors.


The analysis uses a consistent and large firm-level data set from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys that includes 138 developing countries. An instrumental variables model with a GMM estimator is used for estimating the impact of access to skilled labor on firm performance. In order to obtain more robust estimators, the analysis introduces country-level controls reflecting the influence of economic and institutional factors, such as economic and financial development, institutional governance, education and technological progress.


The results document a significant and positive association between access to skilled labor and firm performance in the developing world. The explanatory power of access to skilled labor remains broadly robust after controlling for a wide range of firm-specific characteristics: sectoral and geographical influences matter. The results also show that the association between labor skill constraints and firm performance is mitigated by country-level factors but in diverse ways. Development, institutions, education and technological progress exert various mitigating effects on firm-level behavior regarding access to skilled labor.


The paper’s novel contribution is threefold: first, it uses joint firm, sector and country-level information to analyze the role of access to skilled labor on firm performance; second, it uses consistently produced information at the firm level from 138 developing countries; and, third, it considers the controlling impact of a wide range of country-level factors that reflect a country’s overall development, institutions and evolution.



Mertzanis, C. and Said, M. (2019), "Access to skilled labor, institutions and firm performance in developing countries", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 328-355.



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