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close this bookJob Quality and Small Enterprise Development - Working Paper No. 4 (ILO, 1999, 35 p.)
close this folder2.0 Description of the situation
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 The aggregate picture
View the document2.2 The disaggregated picture
View the document2.3 Quality as a basis for competition

2.2 The disaggregated picture

The aggregate picture describes tendencies for incomes and conditions to improve with enterprise size. However, a closer disaggregated inspection reveals important exceptions and variations. For example, a 1990 ILO study found that whilst the general picture in industrialised countries was indeed one of an improvements with size of firm, in some countries the differences associated with enterprise size were greater than in others. This indicates that there may be other influences at work than just size per se (Sengenberger et al., 1990). In this latter respect, some studies have highlighted the fact that sectoral affiliation can be an important factor. For example, Scott points out that in China research into working conditions has found much higher rates of lead poisoning in smaller enterprises in the lead sector, but much higher dust levels in larger enterprises in brick making and mining sectors (Scott, 1998: citing Liang et al., 1996 and Scott 1997). Also, in the UK, it has been found that small enterprises in some sectors may provide better incomes or conditions than similar sized enterprises in other sectors (See, for example, Curran et al., 1993).

Geographical location and context also appear to have some affect. Small or micro-enterprises in metalworking that are in a dynamic ‘industrial district’, such as in Northern Italy, are likely to be providing higher incomes than similar sized enterprises in the same sector in, say, a particular underdeveloped country of Africa or Asia. Other research has suggested that perhaps of more fundamental significance for a small enterprise’s propensity to provide better incomes and conditions could be a factor like the tendency for an enterprise to be innovative. The degree of participation in capacity raising collaborative inter-enterprise and enterprise-institution networks has also been identified as an important factor (Cosh and Hughes, 1996; cited in Pyke, 1997a). As has the extent to which small enterprises control key strategic aspects such as design and marketing, and the propensity to employ higher proportions of skilled labour (Crestanello, 1996). For example, in Brazil, Teixera (1998) found in a study of ten small enterprises employing 20 to 99 persons that the plant most likely to provide better quality employment was also using more sophisticated technology and skills. It was also the only unionised establishment.