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Social embedding as a solution to a control problem? Evidence from Vietnamese small business* - page 31 / 52





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all the complexities of the tasks performed (only a minority of owners characterized

themselves primarily as “owner” or “manager” – even if those were crucial aspects of their

responsibility) but the job descriptions do show a clear pattern of responsibility being

concentrated in the owner and his or her spouse. Nevertheless, most spouses do not carry job

descriptions that suggest responsibility. Perhaps 50 of the 272 spouses working in the

business (390 total) do so. Five other family members were described as managers. This

was a small minority of the 282 adult working family members. A sizable proportion of

accountants, however, were not related to the owner. While there is a tendency to keep

responsibility close to the owner, responsibility is not the exclusive purview of close family

members nor do most family members carry such responsibility. Only a few in the sample


We extracted and coded the key attributes from the job descriptions. Examining

“ownership”, we see that 99 percent of such job descriptions are held by the owner and

spouse. (Only 16 per cent of the owners characterized themselves primarily as such. Many

identified themselves as having the key skill needed in the business.) Slightly fewer (92

percent) of the job descriptions connoting the management of others were held by owners and

spouses. The remainder were in the hands of family members but also some with no family

ties. Only a few job descriptions indicated a responsibility for administration but owners and

spouses accounted for slightly more than half of those. The remaining positions were divided

about equally between relatives and non-relatives. Cash is handled primarily by owners and

spouses but, beyond that, those with family ties were not well-represented. Service tasks

were often performed by family members and live-in employees while unrelated employees

were often engaged in making things. Consistent with the search hypothesis, those with no

family relationship to the owners made up the bulk of those few performing jobs that required


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