Large firms contribute disproportionately to the economic performance of countries: they are more productive, pay higher wages, enjoy higher profits and are more successful in international markets. The differences between European countries in terms of the size of their firms are stark. Firms in Italy and Spain, for example, are on average 40 percent smaller than firms in Germany. The low average firm size translates into a chronic lack of large firms. In Italy and Spain, a mere 5 percent of manufacturing firms have more than 250 employees, compared to a much higher 11 percent in Germany. Understanding the roots of these differences is key to improving the economic performance of Europe’s lagging economies.
So why is there so much variation in firm size in different European countries? What are the barriers that keep firms in some countries from growing? And which policies are likely to be most effective in breaking down those barriers? This policy report aims to answer these questions by developing a quantitative model of the seven European countries covered by the EFIGE survey (Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and the UK). The EFIGE survey asked 14,444 firms in those countries about their performance, their modes of internationalisation, their staffing decisions, their financing structure, and their competitive environment, among other topics.