When informality meets formality: evidence from China

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6 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aims to explore “what impact does competition from informal enterprises have on formal firms” within the Chinese economic and business environment. Design/methodology/approach: The paper opted for an exploratory study utilizing the cross-sectional survey data “2012 China Enterprise Survey” conducted by the World Bank. The survey is composed of approximately 200 business-related questions across the spectrum of business operations. In all, 2,700 privately owned Chinese firms are included in the logistic regression analysis. Findings: Results show the impact of informal firm competition upon formal firms in China are influenced by geographical location, industry sector, ownership profile, governmental ownership, online presence and the extent of obeying labor regulations or the time spent in handling the governmental regulatory environment. There is a competitive and complementary simultaneous intertwined relationship between formal and informal economy. It occurs in a formal economy not fully divorced from the structural inertia of the planned economy as it transitions to a market-based economy. Practical implications: This paper extended the assumption of institutional theory and presented it as a dynamic view of the evolution of organizations. It contributes by offering a simultaneous dual relationship between the formal and informal economy. It also adds one more potential feature of populations in the population ecology theory. Originality/value: This exploratory paper empirically examines the impacts of informal sector enterprises on formal sectors firms in China and proposes a dual force effect of the informal economy to the formal economy given the current Chinese institutional environment. The study also provides a platform for further research on the interactions between the formal and informal sectors in emerging markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-201
Number of pages18
JournalChinese Management Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 22 2018


  • China
  • Competition
  • Complement
  • Formal sector
  • Informal sector


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