Francesco Loiacono's thesis available for download

The thesis "Firms and Labor Markets: Essays in Development Economics" consists of four chapters.

 

Matching with the Right Attitude: the Effect of Matching Firms with Refugee Workers

In this paper, Francesco and his co-authors examine one way to help refugees integrate into the labor market of the host country. Specifically, they study the effect of internships in Kampala, a major African city and the capital of Uganda, which is one of the largest refugee-host countries in the world. The underlying idea of this study is as follows: Imagine that you are a manager who needs to decide whether to hire an immigrant or not. You may wonder if this person is reliable and possesses the necessary skills for your firm. To address this issue, we intervene by providing short-term internships and examine whether this experience positively influences employers' decisions to hire more refugees in the future. ┬ĘTheir findings show that this workplace interaction does indeed help managers make up their minds: about eight months after the study, they hired three times as many refugees as those who did not offer any internships. However, the effect depends on the initial attitudes of both the manager and the refugee worker.

 

Can work contact improve social cohesion between refugees and locals? Evidence from an experiment in Uganda

In this paper, Francesco and his co-authors investigate whether workplace interactions can improve the perceptions of locals and refugees towards each other. The underlying idea of this study is that if you have never met someone from a foreign country, you may not know how easy or rewarding it is to work together with them. However, if given a chance to work with someone from a different background, you may form a better opinion, especially if the person is particularly good at their job. We conduct an experiment in Uganda, where groups of workers collaborate in a business setting for one week. Their findings indicate that compared to those who do not work together, implicit bias increases while explicit bias decreases for both local and refugee workers. Additionally, behaviors towards the out-group are positive for both groups, but there are slight differences: locals want to have more refugee business partners and invest more in future businesses, while refugees want to work more for Ugandan firms and invest less in their own businesses.

 

Do Information Frictions Kill Competition? A Field Experiment On Public Procurement in Uganda

In this study, they analyze two significant obstacles that firms face in doing business with the government, using public procurement as a case in point. The first factor concerns the lack of or slow access to information about available opportunities. For example, firms may struggle to access information about all the available tenders, i.e., contracts for services that the government needs, because there is no centralized system that collects such contracts. Alternatively, firms may believe that there is no point in obtaining a contract with a public entity because they perceive them to be corrupt, untrustworthy, and not paying on time, or even not paying at all. They conduct two experiments and find that while providing firms with more information about tenders does not make them more willing to do business with the government, adjusting their perceptions of the system does increase their participation in public procurement. 

 

Credit contracts, Business Development and Gender: Evidence from Uganda

Access to credit is crucial for business growth, but in many low-income countries, firms may face challenges that make it difficult to fully benefit from loans. For example, it may take a particularly long time for a project to realize its returns, or several unpredictable events may affect investments. In this environment, modifying the way firms are given credit may help them thrive. This is what is studied in this paper. They collaborated with a large credit institution in Uganda and offered randomly selected firms different types of credit contracts, varying in the flexibility of the repayment terms or whether the firms received an additional cash transfer that they could use however they preferred. They found that five years after the experiment, flexible repayment terms increased the borrowing firms' profits. However, providing firms with more cash did not help them grow. Moreover, which contract helped firms the most depended on the gender of the business owner.

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Francesco will also defend his thesis on 8 June.

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