Foreign Outsourcing, Exporting, and FDI: A Productivity Comparison at the Firm Level


This paper compares the productivity of firms active in foreign outsourcing, exporting, foreign direct investment, or only in domestic operations by a firm-level data of more than 118 thousand Japanese manufacturers. Only a small fraction of firms outsource, export, or invest across borders. The group averages, inter-firm distributions, regressions controlling for industry-effects, and multinomial response models unanimously demonstrate that FDI firms are distinctively more productive than foreign outsourcing firms, which are equally productive as exporters and are clearly more productive than domestic firms. Productive, innovative, or computerized firms are likely to globalize. The firms outsourcing overseas are particularly labor-intensive.

Keywords: Productivity; Firm-level data; Exporter; Foreign outsourcing; FDI

JEL Classifications: F12; F23; D20; F14.

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