ABOUT THE DISCUSSION PAPER

We examine gender differences in perceived obstacles to operation and expansion, and options for business expansion, for a sample of formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Papua New Guinea. We find some evidence of differences in perceived obstacles to operation and expansion and options for business expansion between firms with, and without, majority female ownership. Specifically, we find that firms with majority female ownership are more likely to find access to professional services, such as accounting and legal services, as well as taxation rates, an obstacle to expansion, while they are less likely to find remote location of business, an obstacle to operation and expansion. We also find that firms with majority female ownership are more likely to view marketing and advertising services, and less likely to view technology, including internet access, as an option to improve business. Overall, though, our results suggest that for most obstacles to expansion and options to improve business, gender differences are likely to channel through other attributes such as differences between genders in terms of human capital. This means that when we control for a wide range of other factors gender differences disappear for most obstacles and options for expansion. Our results imply that policies designed to promote SMEs in Papua New Guinea should not overly focus on gender issues, but instead should address obstacles to expansion, and develop initiatives to support SME expansion more generally.

Vinod Mishra, Francis Odhuno, Russell Smyth