The Walking Dead: Zombie Firms Stifle Economic Recovery Prospects

ECOSCOPE

By: Müge Adalet McGowan, Dan Andrews and Valentine Millot – Structural Policy Analysis Division, Economics Department, OECD.

With the global economy stuck in a low growth trap, it is crucial to understand the factors behind the weak recovery in potential output growth, and particularly the barriers to productivity growth. New research shows that this dynamic can be partly understood in terms of the increasing survival of zombie firms – i.e. those firms that would typically exit in a competitive market but are being kept alive by creditors or policy weakness. Today, a key risk is that zombie firms may depress creative destruction, crowd-out growth opportunities for healthy firms and underpin a period of macroeconomic stagnation, just as they did in Japan in the 1990s (Caballero et al., 2008).

In a number of countries, the prevalence and productive resources sunk in “zombie” firms – defined as old firms that have persistent…

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