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Labor misallocation and productivity growth in Vietnamese manufacturing firms

Phuong Thi Nguyen (Department of Economics-Management, Thang Long University, Hanoi, Vietnam)
Hung Viet Nguyen (Faculty of Economics, National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam)
Hoa Quynh Ha (Faculty of Economics, National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 6 December 2022

Issue publication date: 17 March 2023




This research identifies the level of labor misallocation in Vietnamese manufacturing sector for the period 2005–2019. The paper also examines the effects of labor misallocation on productivity in Vietnamese manufacturing firms controlled by industry- and firm-level factors.


The level of labor misallocation and efficiency gains in total factor productivity (TFP) are assessed using Vietnam's annual enterprise survey data for the period 2005–2019 and Hsieh and Klenow (2009) productivity decomposition framework.


The results indicate four main points. Firstly, labor misallocation tends to increase from 2005 to 2019. Secondly, labor misallocation by firm ownership and technology level is found to be highest in state-owned enterprise and low-tech industries, whereas foreign direct investment and high-tech firms have lowest labor misallocation. Labor misallocation in small- and medium-sized enterprises is higher than in large-sized enterprises and is equivalent to overall sample. Thirdly, labor misallocation decreases productivity in manufacturing firms. The firm-level factors such as bigger technology gap, external capital, firm scale and poor liquidity ratio decrease productivity in manufacturing firms. Whereas firm-level factors such as Vietnam's accession to the WTO, reasonable corporate tax structure, capital intensity, human capital and firm age increase productivity of manufacturing firms. The industry-level factors such as FDI horizontal, forward and supply backward spillovers promote productivity from foreign firms to domestic ones. Meanwhile, only backward linkages reduce productivity of firms. Finally, by difference-in-differences (DID) method, the result indicates foreign firms have higher average labor productivity than domestic firms before or after Vietnam's accession to the WTO. After joining WTO, the average labor productivity of foreign firms is increased by 854 million VND while the average labor productivity of domestic firms is increased by 895 million VND. The DID between the two groups (domestic firms and foreign firms) before and after Vietnam's accession to WTO is 41 million dong.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of the study is that the market is assumed perfectly competitive. The model focuses on selective factors affecting labor productivity.


The focus of many previous international research papers was generally to look at the level of labor misallocation in developed countries. However, knowledge about labor misallocation is limited, particularly in the context of developing countries. This paper examines the level of labor misallocation by region, ownership, level of technology and firm size on productivity and the effect of misallocation on productivity in Vietnamese manufacturing firms.

Peer review

The peer-review history for this article is available at:



This research is funded by National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam.


Nguyen, P.T., Nguyen, H.V. and Ha, H.Q. (2023), "Labor misallocation and productivity growth in Vietnamese manufacturing firms", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp. 537-555.



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