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Leaving the multinational: The likelihood and nature of employee mobility from MNEs

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Abstract

The mobility of workers from multinational enterprises (MNEs) to other local firms is increasingly recognized as an important externality mechanism. However, MNEs have strong incentives to curb this mobility to prevent leakage of firm-specific assets. This research note investigates the likelihood and nature of such mobility patterns. Using longitudinal, matched employer–employee data for Sweden with detailed information on individuals, establishments, and firms, we find that workers employed in MNEs are more likely to leave their employers compared to similar workers employed in non-MNEs with similar characteristics. This effect is particularly strong for high-wage workers and managers. While we find that workers who leave MNEs are more likely to move to other MNEs, our results identify significant mobility toward start-ups, thus leading to important industrial dynamics in the host country. We discuss the implications of these results for research on the externalities from MNEs, and international business theory.

Résumé

La mobilité des travailleurs des entreprises multinationales (Multinational Enterprises - MNEs) vers d'autres entreprises locales est de plus en plus reconnue comme un important mécanisme d'externalité. Néanmoins, les MNEs sont fortement incitées à freiner cette mobilité afin d'éviter les fuites de leurs ressources et compétences stratégiques (Firm-Specific Assets - FSAs). Cette note de recherche examine la probabilité et la nature de telles configurations de mobilité. En utilisant les données longitudinales appariées employeurs-employés en Suède, avec d’ailleurs des informations détaillées sur les individus, les établissements et les entreprises, nous observons que les travailleurs employés dans les MNEs sont plus susceptibles de quitter leurs employeurs que les travailleurs similaires employés dans les non-MNEs ayant des caractéristiques similaires. Cet impact est particulièrement fort pour les hauts salaires et les managers. Alors que nous constatons que les travailleurs qui quittent les MNEs sont plus susceptibles d’entrer dans d'autres MNEs, nos résultats identifient une mobilité significative vers les start-ups, conduisant ainsi à une dynamique industrielle importante dans le pays d'accueil. Nous discutons les implications de ces résultats pour la recherche portée sur les externalités des MNEs ainsi que pour la théorie des affaires internationales.

Resumen

La movilidad de los trabajadores de las empresas multinacionales (EMN) hacia otras empresas locales se reconoce cada vez más como un importante mecanismo de externalidad. Sin embargo, las empresas multinacionales tienen incentivos fuertes para poner freno a esta movilidad para prevenir la fuga de los activos específicos de las empresas (FSA por sus iniciales en inglés). Esta nota de investigación investiga la probabilidad y la naturaleza de dichos patrones de movilidad. Usando datos longitudinales emparejados entre empleador-empleados para Suecia con información detallada sobre individuos, establecimientos y empresas, encontramos que los trabajadores empleados en empresas multinacionales son más propensos a abandonar sus empleadores, en comparación con trabajadores similares en empresas con características similares que no son multinacionales. Este efecto es particularmente fuerte para trabajadores con alto nivel salarial y gerentes. Mientras que encontramos que los trabajadores que dejan las empresas multinacionales son más propensos a moverse a otras empresas multinacionales, nuestros resultados identifican una movilidad significativa hacia empresas de nueva creación (start-ups), llevando así hacia importantes dinámicas industriales en el país anfitrión. Discutimos las implicaciones de estos resultados para la investigación en las externalidades de las empresas multinacionales, y la teoría de negocios internacionales.

Resumo

A mobilidade de trabalhadores de empresas multinacionais (MNEs) para outras empresas locais é cada vez mais reconhecida como um importante mecanismo de externalidade. Contudo, MNEs têm fortes incentivos para restringir essa mobilidade para evitar o vazamento de ativos específicos da empresa (FSAs). Esta nota de pesquisa investiga a probabilidade e natureza de tais padrões de mobilidade. Usando dados longitudinais pareados de empregador-empregado para Suécia com informações detalhadas sobre indivíduos, estabelecimentos e empresas, descobrimos que trabalhadores empregados em MNEs têm maior probabilidade de deixar seus empregadores, em comparação com trabalhadores semelhantes empregados em não-MNEs com características semelhantes. Esse efeito é particularmente forte para trabalhadores e gerentes com altos salários. Embora tendo descoberto que trabalhadores que deixam MNEs têm mais probabilidade de se mudar para outras MNEs, nossos resultados identificam mobilidade significativa em direção a empresas startup, gerando assim uma dinâmica industrial importante no país anfitrião. Discutimos as implicações desses resultados para a pesquisa sobre as externalidades de MNEs e a teoria de negócios internacionais.

摘要

员工从跨国企业 (MNEs)到其它本地企业的流动性越来越被认为是一种重要的外部性机制。然而。MNE有强烈的动机来抑制这种流动, 以防止企业特定资产 (FSA) 的泄漏。本研究纪要调查了这种流动模式的可能性和性质。使用瑞典的纵向, 匹配的雇主-雇员数据以及有关个人, 机构和公司的详细信息, 我们发现, 与在具有相似特征的非MNE雇用的相似员工相比, 受雇于MNE的员工更有可能离开雇主。这种影响对高薪员工和管理人员尤其明显。虽然我们发现离开MNE的员工更有可能转到其它的MNE, 但我们的结果识别了向初创企业的显著的流动性, 从而导致东道国重要的产业动态性。我们讨论了这些结果对MNE外部性研究以及对国际商务理论的启示。

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Acknowledgements

The article has benefited from comments and suggestions received during seminar and conference presentations at the Henley Business School, Reading, UK, November 2019; 22nd Uddevalla Symposium, Gran Sasso, Italy, June 2019. The authors are grateful for financial support from the project “Leaving the Multinational: what is the impact of the mobility of human capital from multinational enterprises to entrepreneurship and small and medium businesses in Sweden?" (project number 702871), funded by the Lundberg Foundation, and from the project “Sweden’s Position in Global Value Chains” (project number 2017-05382), funded by VINNOVA.

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Accepted by Dana Minbaeva, Area Editor, 13 October 2021. This article has been with the authors for four revisions.

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Andersson, M., Castellani, D., Fassio, C. et al. Leaving the multinational: The likelihood and nature of employee mobility from MNEs. J Int Bus Stud 53, 936–949 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-021-00490-7

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