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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Information Economics and Policy, Volume 21, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 43–61
This paper describes a comparative empirical study of the effect of information and communication technology (ICT) capital, human capital and new organizational practices on labour productivity in Greek and Swiss firms. We use firm-level data collected in 2005 through a common questionnaire administered to samples of similar composition (e.g. similar firm sizes, similar sectors), from which we construct econometric models with similar specifications for Greece and Switzerland. The analytical framework is based on a firm-level production function. We find statistically significant positive effects for physical capital, ICT capital, human capital and “employee voice”-oriented organizational practices for both samples. We also identify considerable differences: Swiss firms are more mature and more efficient than Greek firms at creating, using and combining these ‘new’ production factors.
In the modern economy, in addition to traditional production factors (physical capital, labour), there are some ‘new’ factors that are becoming very important, such as human skills (often referred to as ‘human capital’), workplace organization (often referred to as ‘organizational capital’), information and communication technologies (ICT), and knowledge. In most developed and developing countries firms make big investments to acquire and use these new production factors; thus, their contribution to and impact on firm performance is of critical importance. There has been considerable research about the impact of ICT investments on firm performance but until recently, there has been very little empirical evidence of a positive contribution of ICT investment on firm performance. This lack of empirical evidence has given rise to the ‘ICT Productivity Paradox’ (Brynjolfsson, 1993). More recent research in this area has produced evidence of the positive contribution of ICT investment to several measures of firm performance (see, e.g., OECD, 2004), probably reflecting improvements in the exploitation of ICT by firms. In addition, the contribution of human capital to economic growth at the aggregate, sector and firm levels has been researched and recognized (e.g., Barro, 1999 and Middendorf, 2006), and there is an increasing interest in new organizational practices, such as ‘employee voice’ and new forms of ‘work design’, and their impact on firm performance (e.g., Murphy, 2002 and Black and Lynch, 2002). There is also some acknowledgement in the literature of the existence of complementarities between ICT capital, human capital and new organizational practices, all of which are of critical importance for firm performance. These complementarities have been regarded as a fundamental characteristic of an emerging new ‘firm paradigm’ in the modern economy (Milgrom and Roberts, 1990). However, although there are some similarities among the conclusions made by these studies, there are also several differences, which (at least to some extent) might be due to variations in sample composition (the samples of the above studies come from different sectors and industries), the variables and model specifications, and the nature of the investigations (cross-sectional versus longitudinal). Further empirical research is required, therefore, into the impact of ICT capital, human capital and new organizational practices, and their combined effect on firm performance. To this end, this paper describes a comparative empirical study of the effects of ICT capital, human capital, new organizational practices and their combined use, controlling for knowledge capital, on labour productivity in Greek and Swiss firms. The analytical framework is based on a firm-level production function. Both the Greek and the Swiss parts of this study are based on firm-level data collected in 2005, through the same questionnaire, from samples of similar composition (firm size classes and sectors), and they use the same variables and model specifications; thus, they are comparable. The contribution of this study to the empirical literature is three-fold. First, ours is the first completely comparative empirical study of the research areas outlined above, in two quite different countries, that gives particular attention to the issue of complementarity. Second, it is the first study of this type with a focus on Greece, whose economy is quite different from the economies of the highly developed countries, which have been the subject of most of the empirical studies in this area. Third, this study explicitly takes account of possible endogeneity problems in the right-hand side variables in a cross-section. The structure of this paper is as follows: Section 2 presents the conceptual framework of the study; Section 3 provides a review of the relevant empirical literature. the Greek and Swiss data are described in Section 4. Section 5 presents and compares the patterns of ICT use, new organizational practices and human capital in Greece and Switzerland. Section 6 describes how the variables are constructed and the specification of the two types of econometric models used in this study. The results of the econometric estimates for both samples are presented and discussed in Section 7. Finally, we summarize the results and compare the findings for Greece and Switzerland in Section 8.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In this paper, based on the firm-level data, we have presented a comparative empirical study of the effects of ICT capital, human capital and new organizational practices, and their combined use, controlling for physical and knowledge capital, on labour productivity in Greece and Switzerland. Our analytical framework was a firm-level production function. The Greek and the Swiss parts of this study are comparable because they are based on the same questionnaire and samples of similar composition (in terms of firm sizes and sectors), and they both use the same variables and model specifications. We should emphasize that because our results are based on firm samples that are structurally similar in terms of firm size and industry, differences related to the quite different industry structures of the two countries (e.g., Switzerland having a high share of banks and pharmaceutical industries, Greece having a high share of textiles and clothing) are cancelled out. Below, we summarize the empirical results and discuss the similarities and differences between the two countries. 9.1. Similarities For both samples, we found statistically significant positive effects for physical capital, ICT, human capital (HUMAN) and “employee voice” oriented organizational practices (ORG2); no effect (Greek case) or even a negative effect (Swiss case) was found for “work design” oriented organizational changes (ORG1). Also for both countries, the intranet effect was stronger than the Internet effect, meaning that the use of ICT for the improvement of intra-firm information, communication and coordination processes has a higher payoff, measured in labour productivity gains, than does the use of ICT for the improvement of the corresponding inter-firm processes. 9.2. Differences There are considerable differences between the firms in the two countries. First, the relative importance of these effects, as measured by the standardized coefficients of the compact model, is not the same for both samples. For the Greek firms, we found the following: physical capital > ICT > human capital > “employee voice” practices (ORG2). For the Swiss firms, the respective ranking is human capital > ICT > “employee voice” practices (ORG2) > physical capital ≈ R&D. We remark that in the Swiss firms the impact of human capital, ICT capital and organizational capital associated with “employee voice” practices is higher than the impact of “traditional” physical capital, while in Greek firms these three “new” production factors have on the contrary a lower impact on labour productivity than does physical capital. For Greek firms, physical capital (“tangibles”) is (still) very important, more so in fact than ICT, which has both a tangible (hardware) component and an intangible (software) component; also the “intangibles” (human capital, R&D) are less important for achieving better economic performance in Greek firms, while the R&D variable has no effect on productivity. Even though there are more employees with tertiary level education in Greek firms than in Swiss firms (see Section 5), human capital is evidently more efficiently utilized in Swiss firms.7 On the whole, “intangibles” have a high impact on the economic performance of Swiss firms (strong effects of human capital, ICT capital and organizational capital associated with “employee voice” practices; clearly positive effect of R&D), but in the case of Greek firms, a much lower impact on the economic performance. Therefore, it can be concluded that Swiss firms are more efficient and mature in creating and using these “new” production factors than are Greek firms. Second, the “employee voice” effect on labour productivity, which, as already mentioned, is significantly positive for firms in both countries, is based on the different types of employee competencies. In Greek firms this effect is related to the decentralization of competencies related to working conditions (work pace, work performance, work sequence), while in Switzerland it is related to the decentralization of competencies having to do with the work content (contacts with customers, solving problems related to customers). These differences can be interpreted as reflecting different management philosophies and different levels of employee autonomy. Co-operation between management and employees with respect to working conditions is required mostly for very routine activities and production processes, and is characteristic of Greek firms. Employee competence relating to work content is relevant to less routine activities requiring greater individual initiative from employees, as is often the case in Swiss firms. Third, there are differences between firms of the two countries with respect to complementarity effects between ICT capital, human capital and organizational capital. We could not find any interaction effects for the Greek firms in our sample, while there was evidence of two interaction effects (between human capital and ICT, and between human capital and “employee voice” oriented organizational practices) for the Swiss firms. Therefore, although the use of ICT in Greek firms leads to positive productivity effects, the full potential of this technology is not utilized because human capital is not efficiently combined with it. Similarly, the decentralization of some competencies has positive productivity effects, but this potential is not fully exploited due to inefficient combination with human capital. Swiss firms, on the other hand, seem to be able to exploit the potential of technology and decentralization through the combination of these factors with appropriate human skills, which in turn enables a higher level exploitation of ICT and a more successful decentralization of competencies. The results of this study have interesting policy implications, given that the governments of most countries need to exercise some kind of industrial policy, although that applies more to Greece than to Switzerland. In addition to providing firms with subsidies, loans, tax reductions and other incentives for investment in ICT, human capital skills, new organizational practices and R&D, government should provide all firms (and especially SMEs) with knowledge (e.g., guides and examples of national and international best practice) about the efficient creation, use and exploitation of these “new” production factors, and their appropriate combination.