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How Do Regulations Affect SMEs? A Review of the Qualitative Evidence and a Research Agenda

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Oliver Mallett, Robert Wapshott



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The relationship between levels of regulation and rates of SME growth is complex and contested. This paper presents findings from a systematic review of peer reviewed, empirical evidence on the firm-level effects of regulation on SME growth. Empirically, we contribute to debates on regulation and SME growth by identifying and organising the limited research base focused specifically on the firm-level effects of regulation on SME growth. We identify four key themes: correlations with regulatory context; perceptions of regulation; threshold effects; and stability and consistency. Conceptually we contribute by arguing that the domination of research evidence by the rhetoric of de-regulation creates a counterproductive ‘spectre of regulation’ that distorts understanding and may hamper business growth. In particular we highlight the potential dangers of ‘regulatory churn’ as a result of efforts to enhance or remove existing regulation that threatens the stability and consistency that may support SME survival and growth.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mallett O, Wapshott R, Vorley T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Management Reviews

Year: 2019

Volume: 21

Issue: 3

Pages: 294-316

Print publication date: 01/07/2019

Online publication date: 22/07/2018

Acceptance date: 17/06/2018

Date deposited: 18/06/2018

ISSN (print): 1460-8545

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2370

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12191


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