Chemin de navigation

Left navigation

Additional tools

Performance of SMEs in 2012: amidst challenges, prospects improving for most Member States

Commission Européenne - MEMO/13/1045   26/11/2013

Autres langues disponibles: aucune

European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 26 November 2013

Performance of SMEs in 2012: amidst challenges, prospects improving for most Member States

Every year the European Commission analyses how much progress European countries made in implementing the Small Business Act (SBA)1. This memo describes the results of the 2012 assessments which were published today in the country-specific SBA factsheets2. The SBA factsheets are developed on the basis of a wide range of success indicators and national policy developments, grouped according to the SBA's ten policy dimensions:

(1) Entrepreneurship,

(2) Second chance,

(3) Think small first,

(4) Responsive administration,

(5) State aid and public procurement,

(6) Access to finance,

(7) Single market,

(8) Skills and innovations,

(9) Environment, and

(10) Internationalization.

The SBA factsheets also include trend charts in the SME sector for each country (also included in this memo). It is important to note that these figures represent estimates for 2011-2014, based on 2008-2010 figures from the Structural Business Statistics Database (Eurostat).

The SBA factsheets cover the 28 EU Member States, as well as Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

Read the full SBA factsheets

Country highlights3

Austria

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 300 000 SMEs in Austria’s private business sector, employing almost 1.8 million workers and producing about 93 billion EUR in value added to the economy4. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 60.1% of the economic value-added and 67.7% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Austrian SMEs are doing well. Austria is one of the few countries in the EU where the SME sector managed to expand during the crisis. It is estimated that Austrian SMEs created a net 37 000 additional jobs (a 2.1 % increase) between 2008 and 2012. This growth is a remarkable achievement against the background of the most serious economic crisis in decades. The SME sector managed to withstand the crisis through a combination of innovation and international exposure, most notably within the single market.

  • Business environment: Austria provides one of the most favourable business environments for SMEs in the EU, with particular strengths in the SBA areas of ’think small first’, ‘state aid & public procurement’, ‘skills & innovation’ and ‘environment’. There is, however, still room for improvement in some areas: notwithstanding recent measures, more efforts on ‘responsive administration’ would be desirable, e.g. to facilitate the setting-up of new businesses. One emerging issue which needs to be tackled is a shortage of skilled personnel in some industries. Also, despite the relatively good performance on ‘access to finance’, further measures are needed to improve SMEs’ access to capital, particularly venture capital and crowd funding.

Belgium

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 511 000 SMEs in Belgium’s private business sector, employing some 1.7 million workers and producing about 107 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 61.6% of the economic value-added and 68.9% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Belgium’s SME sector has weathered the crisis well, as employment in SMEs increased by 4 % between 2008 and 2012. While the outlook for 2013 and beyond still looks moderately optimistic, some risks have appeared, including ones due to the recent string of closures of large industrial plants. SME-oriented policies are therefore more important than ever.

  • Business environment: Belgium’s SBA policy profile is mixed. Its performance is above the EU average in half of the 10 SBA areas. Innovation is the strength of Belgian SMEs, while the lack of dynamism in entrepreneurship is its weakness. In general, during the past year, the conditions for SMEs have remained unchanged, except for a number of interesting new policy measures, most notably in the areas of entrepreneurship, access to finance, internationalisation, environment and innovation. In some areas such as public administration and internationalisation, elevated costs of doing business were identified as a problem. While the policy measures implemented over the past 12 months are laudable, Belgium needs to continue forcing reforms in all SBA policy areas so as to allow for further progress.

Bulgaria

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 270 000 SMEs in Bulgaria’s private business sector, employing some 1.4 million workers and producing about 10 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 62.6% of the economic value-added and 75.5% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Bulgarian SMEs are still suffering from the consequences of the crisis, to different degrees, depending on their sector of activity. As of November 2012, 45 % of people who lost their job came from the private sector and three quarters of job losses were concentrated in SMEs. The SMEs in construction and real estate have been hit hard by the burst of the real estate bubble, but there are also worrying trends in the wholesale and retail trade sector, where a majority of Bulgarian SMEs are concentrated.

  • Business environment: Bulgaria made some general progress in improving the framework conditions for SMEs in such areas as entrepreneurship, public procurement and skills & innovation. Broad initiatives were taken, such as the overhauling of procedures for the award of public contracts and enhancing innovation and skills in the SME sector. However, the main policy challenges for the country have remained broadly unchanged. Thus, in spite of this progress, Bulgarian SMEs only marginally engaged in internationalisation and suffer from poor access to finance, which hampers the prospects for growth and recovery from the economic crisis. SMEs could benefit from improvements in tax administration, the streamlining of insolvency procedures and contract enforcement, and full implementation of the Point of Single Contact and e-government solutions.

Croatia

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 153 000 SMEs in Croatia’s private business sector, employing some 696 000 workers and producing about 11 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 55.7% of the economic value-added as well as 68.4% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Croatia is still suffering from the effects of the economic crisis, which provoked a slump both in employment and in value-added for the SME sector. The trends in the SME sector seemed to stabilise as the government tried to nurture an effective economic recovery while moving towards EU membership. In particular, traditionally strong sectors of the Croatian economy, such as construction and tourism, seem to be encountering specific difficulties.

  • Business environment: Croatia’s SBA profile shows that only entrepreneurship and skills and innovation are in line with the EU average. The main difficulties lie in weak framework conditions for entrepreneurial activity, cumbersome administration with excessive regulation and costs of registration, and weak support for second-chance entrepreneurs. In particular, the government should resume the programme of regulatory simplification which it started with well-targeted measures in 2007, but which has stagnated since 2009. In this area, the predictability of the business environment could be improved by better enforcing the regulatory impact assessment and increasing the transparency of decision-making, particularly at local level.

Cyprus

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 45 000 SMEs in Cyprus’s private business sector, employing some 190 000 workers and producing about 7 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 75% of the economic value-added and 81.1% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The crisis plunged Cyprus into a deep and prolonged recession, which culminated in a liquidity crisis of its banking system. Cypriot companies experienced negative growth over the period 2008-12. Generally, the SME sector saw its value-added shrink about 9 % and its workforce fall by about 2 % between 2008 and 2012. Because of the bursting of a local real estate bubble, SMEs in the construction sector were worst hit, with a 20 % drop in value-added.

  • Business environment: Cyprus’ SBA profile reveals that some areas are on par with or above the EU average (internationalisation, entrepreneurship) while others are lagging behind (environment, single market). Measures already announced in 2011 and 2012 have yet to be implemented. They concern important policy areas for Cypriot SMEs, such as environment, State aid and public procurement (where Cypriot SMEs lag behind the EU average). The most important SBA policy related areas of progress in 2012 were in creating a more responsive administration and promoting the upgrading of skills in SMEs, as well as all forms of innovation.

The Czech Republic

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 939 000 SMEs in the Czech Republic’s private business sector, employing some 2.4 million workers and producing about 47 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 54.9% of the economic value-added and 68.5% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Various factors point to the need for the Czech Republic to re-inject momentum into the SME sector through new measures to support competitiveness and performance. It is worrying that, in the Czech Republic, 50 % of businesses closed in 2012 were over 15 years old. This negative signal of disappearing business even for well-established companies is compounded by a declining trend in SMEs’ intra-EU imports and exports, which are far more significant for the country than trade with non-EU countries. While the employment in the SME sector is returning to its 2008 levels, the value-added is still below even if forecasts are cautiously positive.

  • Business environment: Czech SBA profile reveals weaknesses in the areas of ‘responsive administration’, ‘state aid & public procurement’ and ‘entrepreneurship’, which have suffered from relative neglect. In December 2012, an SME support strategy for 2014-20 was unveiled as part of the overarching Czech Competitiveness Strategy. Policy measures were concentrated in a few areas, such as ‘access to finance’ and ‘skills & innovation’. If the Czech Republic is to catch up with EU-average SME performance, it needs to put its overall strategy into practice and consistently and comprehensively implement the Competitiveness Strategy and the 2014-20 SME Support Concept.

Denmark

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 203 000 SMEs in Denmark’s private business sector, employing some 1 050 000 workers and producing about 70 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 61.3% of the economic value-added and 66.4% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The 2008-09 crisis has hit Denmark’s SME sector hard. It has led to a significant fall in employment, value-added and numbers of firms. After 2009, Danish firms have experienced a modest recovery, but that lost momentum in 2012. SMEs were more affected than large companies, their contribution to the GDP falling about 2.3 % each year over 2008-12, while larger firms managed to hold their value-added over the same period. However, the prognosis for 2013 and 2014 anticipates more sustained growth. The economy is expected to gain momentum again, on the back of the reforms implemented by Denmark to boost investment and internal demand and improve export competitiveness. However, a full recovery to pre-crisis levels is not yet within sight, especially regarding employment.

  • Business environment: Denmark offers a favourable business environment for small firms, which are widely considered to be the main generators of future wealth and employment. The SBA profile for Denmark clearly exceeds the EU average in half of the SBA areas. Denmark’s performance is close – albeit slightly below par – in environment and state aid and public procurement, and entrepreneurship. However, Denmark is the lead performer in fields such as skills and innovation, framework conditions for internationalisation, responsive administration and second chance.

Estonia

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 51 000 SMEs in Estonia’s private business sector, employing some 301 000 workers and producing about 6 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 74.4% of the economic value-added and 78.3% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The 2008-09 crisis has had an important impact on the development of the Estonian business economy, with all companies — big and small — experiencing slumps in terms of both employment and turnover or value-added. SMEs seem to have been hit much harder than larger firms, their value-added having plummeted by about a fifth. Nevertheless, Estonian SMEs benefited from a business-friendly environment and a strong and responsive administration, and have quickly started to recover, with positive growth rates after 2009. In fact, full recovery to pre-crisis level is expected in 2014 for value-added.

  • Business environment: Estonia has a sophisticated business culture with good framework conditions for innovation and internationalisation. Statistics on SMEs show that Estonia’s performance clearly exceeds the EU average in six out of ten SBA areas, with very good performance in ‘internationalisation’ and in making its administration responsive to the needs of small businesses. Estonia lags behind in ‘entrepreneurship’ and offers less-positive conditions for entrepreneurs who have gone through bankruptcy. In addition, the generally-recognised weaknesses of Estonian SMEs are their lack of qualified staff and engineers and their limited access to venture capital and other less-traditional sources of financing.

Finland

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 221 000 SMEs in Finland’s private business sector, employing some 892 000 workers and producing about 48 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 57.1% of the economic value-added and 62.8% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The performance of Finnish SMEs since 2009 has been resilient. After an initial downturn with a substantial fall in employment and value-added, the majority of SMEs recovered rapidly to pre-crisis levels. During 2011 and 2012, however, the Finnish SME sector has more or less stagnated at this level. One sector showing notable growth is information and communications technology (ICT) where Finland boasts a vibrant start-up culture. Preliminary estimates forecast that growth will pick up in 2013, a trend that will increase in 2014. However, there are a number of risks mainly relating to recovery in the EU.

  • Business environment: Policy-wise, Finland remains the benchmark for SBA policy implementation in the EU. Its policy record reveals no serious weaknesses or barriers for SMEs. Finland scores well above the EU average in most SBA areas. The ageing population poses, a strategic long-term challenge to the current levels of entrepreneurship, as in many other European countries. There is also room to further improve SMEs’ access to public procurement. Recently, due to stagnation in home and EU markets, policy makers have put particular emphasis on measures promoting internationalisation.

France

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 2.4 million SMEs in France’s private business sector, employing some 9.1 million workers and producing about 501 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 58.5% of the economic value-added and 62.6% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The SME sector in France was hit hard by the global recession in 2008‑09 and subsequently experienced a brief period of recovery, which lost momentum in 2012. Employment in French SMEs grew less rapidly between 2008 and 2012 than that in large companies, while value-added was more or less stable for both groups. Companies in construction have been dealing with significant difficulties and, while the crisis has shaken the entire sector, SMEs remain more vulnerable than the large construction companies, which in 2012 succeeded in generating value-added above the 2008 pre-crisis levels.

  • Business environment: French SMEs continue to benefit from good framework conditions for trade, an administration that is fairly responsive to the needs of the small businesses, comparatively fast transposition of EU law and good access to state aid and public procurement opportunities. Nevertheless, the country’s overall performance on the SBA grid continues to be hampered by below-average results when it comes to exploiting the opportunities offered by new green markets and a somewhat lower intensity of entrepreneurial activity.

Germany

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 2,1 million SMEs in Germany’s private business sector, employing some 16,3 million workers and producing about 745 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.5% of all businesses and account for 53.8% of the economic value-added and 62.2% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Overall, Germany offers a very hospitable business and political environment for SMEs. As a consequence, the German SME sector showed great resilience throughout the crisis that started in 2008. In fact, it even grew in this period, creating some 1.1 million jobs since 2009. This performance set Germany apart from almost all other Member States during the crisis. German SMEs continue to be more innovative and internationally-oriented than most of their EU counterparts.

  • Business environment: In recent years, the policy framework has contributed to this success. In particular, in “Skills & Innovation, Environment and Access to Finance” Germany is ahead of most of her EU peers. The areas of concern are more for the long than the short term, but are nonetheless critical. Germany´s ageing demographics are already taking their toll on the economy. One obvious effect is the increasing shortage of young qualified professionals, which is being felt – especially by SMEs – in some sectors and regions of the economy. Another may be a gradual decrease in the numbers of young entrepreneurs, which has yet to really set in. Germany may have to work harder in the future to counteract the effects of an ageing society. Political efforts to better exploit the untapped potential for entrepreneurship will need to be stepped up and better coordinated at all levels: nationally, but in particular regionally.

Greece

  • State of the SMEs: In 2009, there were more than 500 000 SMEs in Greece’s private business sector, employing some 1.4 million workers and producing about 34 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 69% of the economic value-added and 84.8% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Greece is in its fifth year of deep recession. In a country where 85 % of private employment is concentrated in the SME sector and more than 50 % in micro enterprises (0-9 employees), the prolonged recession, aggravated by austerity measures and the delay of much‑needed structural reforms, has affected SMEs disproportionately more than large companies. Moreover, many tax incentives and/or exemptions that SMEs used to enjoy have been abolished. These developments account for very negative trends registered for the SME sector since 2008.

  • Business environment: In this context, the Greek government further fine-tuned the National Plan for Supporting Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (2010-13) and to reinforce existing self-employment support programmes. On the one hand, more specific action has been taken to help micro enterprises, with the creation of a more flexible form of private limited company (IKE). On the other, efforts to promote self-employment have targeted specific groups such as young people, the unemployed or women (e.g. Women Entrepreneurship). Also, in the 2012-13 the Greek government launched a number of specialised and targeted initiatives for SMEs in line with basic SBA principles, notably in the areas of internationalisation and innovation.

Hungary

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 551 000 SMEs in Hungary’s private business sector, employing some 1.7 million workers and producing about 26 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 53.2% of the economic value-added and 71.2% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Hungary´s SMEs sector continues to be affected by the crisis. While this is also true for other Member States, the stagnation in the Hungarian SME sector predates the outbreak of the financial crisis and goes at least 2-3 years further back. From 2008 onwards, however, the decline in numbers of SMEs and employees and the reduction in value-added accelerated. Only after 2011 did the downturn seem to start bottoming out and give way to a very modest recovery. As a result, it is estimated that by the end of 2013 Hungary’s SME sector will employ some 92 000 fewer people than in 2008. There is a silver lining, though, as the forecast for 2014 points to a more robust upswing for the number of SMEs, employment and value-added.

  • Business environment: For this to translate into a real SME recovery, however, decisive policy action to improve the business environment is needed. Some progress has already been made, especially in the area of entrepreneurship and — to a lesser extent — in access to finance. Policy measures have also helped to reduce administrative red tape. However, in practically all ten SBA areas, Hungary still has to step up its implementation activities so as to continue its catching-up process. Areas with a particular need for action are ‘skills & innovation’ and ‘internationalisation’. As far as ‘responsive administration’ and ‘think small first’ is concerned, more needs to be done to create a stable regulatory framework, including steadying the rate of regulatory changes. In both these categories, Hungary trails its EU peers by the biggest margin. However, there is potential as evidenced by Hungary´s nascent IT sector, which has in recent years generated a number of internationally successful businesses. This suggests that broader based reforms could well trigger more such success stories in other sectors too.

Ireland

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 139 000 SMEs in Ireland’s private business sector, employing some 749 000 workers and producing about 38 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 50% of the economic value-added and 70% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The Irish SME sector has started to recover after the 2008 crisis, which was prompted by the housing bubble bursting, followed by the crash of the banking sector, and the subsequent spending cuts and tax increases needed for fiscal consolidation. SMEs were affected more than large companies, and lost one-fifth of their economic value-added and 17 % of their workforces from 2008 to 2012. Although a full recovery to pre-crisis levels is still not in sight, in 2013 and 2014, the SME sector is expected to grow by 2.6 % in 2013 and a further 3.7 % in 2014.

  • Business environment: Ireland offers a business-friendly environment, supported by an efficient administration, responsive to the needs of businesses, and an innovative and entrepreneurial business culture. In order to facilitate a full recovery, access to finance for SMEs should be improved, the ‘think small first’ principle in policy making streamlined, and more support provided for businesses to export within the single market and to third countries.

Italy

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 3.69 million SMEs in Italy’s private business sector, employing some 12 million workers and producing about 422 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 68% of the economic value-added and 80% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The SME sector in Italy was hit hard by the global recession of 2008-09. It experienced a brief period of recovery afterwards, but it lost momentum in 2012. Large companies found it comparatively easier to adjust than SMEs, especially micro enterprises that constitute the vast majority of Italian firms, because they are better equipped to tap in the growth potential of emerging markets.

  • Business environment: Given these underlying structural trends, the Italian government took action to improve the general framework conditions for Italian SMEs, notably to make the administration more responsive to the needs of businesses and to improve the conditions for companies to aggregate and internationalise theirs activities. Nevertheless, the country’s overall performance on the SBA grid continues to be below the EU-average in terms of exporting internationally and the single market. The climate of political uncertainty constitutes a risk for the timely implementation of SBA-related initiatives announced in 2011 and 2012. The single most important issue to be monitored for Italy’s future SBA performance is the swift implementation of these measures.

Latvia

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 70 000 SMEs in Latvia’s private business sector, employing some 420 000 workers and producing about 5 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 68.6% of the economic value-added and 78.6% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Both SMEs and large enterprises (LEs) were hard-hit by the 2008/2009 economic crisis, though SMEs suffered more as their value-added decreased more rapidly between 2008 and 2012 (~29 %) than LEs’ value-added did (~17 %). However, both small and large firms started to recover and showed positive growth between 2009 and 2012. The value-added created by SMEs increased by about 10 % between 2009 and 2012, while LEs’ value-added increased by 4 %. This shows that SMEs recovered from the crisis quicker than LEs, even though they suffered more from it.

  • Business environment: Latvia’s SBA profile does not present a clear-cut picture. Latvia is clearly above the EU average in five areas (‘access to finance’, ‘single market’, ‘state aid and public procurement’, ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘responsive administration’), lags behind in two (‘skills and innovation’, ‘environment’), and performs on par with the average in the remaining ones. Latvia improved in almost all areas over the past five years.

Lithuania

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 107 000 SMEs in Lithuania’s private business sector, employing some 605 000 workers and producing about 6 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 63.5% of the economic value-added and 75.1% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The 2008-09 crisis has hit Lithuania’s SMEs hard, resulting in significant slumps in employment, and even more so in value-added. SMEs were affected more than large companies, having experienced a one-third contraction in the economic activity, while large companies only reduced their activity by a fifth. This can be explained by the fact that SMEs are particularly active in sectors which are not export-oriented and thereby excessively dependent on domestic demand, which fell heavily when the crisis hit and government spending was reduced due to lower tax income and rising debt. However, the Lithuanian economy has proved to be very resilient, and both SMEs and larger firms have since recovered every year, albeit the growth flattened shortly in 2012. Full recovery to pre-crisis level will be achieved only after 2014.

  • Business environment: Lithuania has a positive SBA profile. The country does well on a number of areas, led by state aid & public procurement, responsive administration, second chance, and even access to finance. In general, it offers a business-friendly environment, backed up by an efficient administration responsive to the needs of businesses. Notwithstanding these positive elements, further enhancing Lithuania’s profile will require significant improvements in research and innovation, as well as skills, where it still faces some challenges.

Luxembourg

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 29 000 SMEs in Luxembourg’s private business sector, employing some 162 000 workers and producing about 13 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.6% of all businesses and account for 72% of the economic value-added and 70.3% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Luxembourg’s SME sector has so far escaped the crisis largely unscathed. In fact, the number of SMEs has increased significantly — by 12 % since 2008. Also, the number of employees has grown since the onset of the crisis and after a brief dip in 2009. At the same time, SMEs' contribution to GDP, as expressed by the aggregated value-added of Luxembourg’s SMEs, has remained more or less unchanged over the past 3-4 years. The only sector which struggled was manufacturing, where the number of both SMEs and employees dropped. However, gains in the service sector and in particular in knowledge-intensive firms in ICT, finance and real estate more than compensated for those losses.

  • Business environment: This remarkably positive trend over recent years suggests that the overall business climate is SME-friendly. There are no serious deficiencies in the country’s SME policy. The government has pro-actively pursued the implementation of the SBA on all fronts. If there are weaknesses, they are rather minor. Still, there are a number of things the country needs to work on to remain a competitive business location. One such issue is additional efforts to promote entrepreneurship. Also, the efforts to establish Luxembourg as a centre of learning and research need to be continued, especially given the declining trends in manufacturing.

Malta

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 26 000 SMEs in Malta’s private business sector, employing some 92 000 workers and producing about 2 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 71.4% of the economic value-added and 80% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: More than any other Member State, Malta´s economy depends on its SMEs and in particular the micro-firms of fewer than 10 employees. So far they have weathered the economic crisis very well. The performance of Maltese SMEs since 2008 has been extraordinarily robust. The number of SMEs increased by almost 1 000 and the employment level grew by 2 320 or 2.5 % over the period 2008-12. These increases are rather modest, but must be put in the context of the most serious economic crisis in decades. Against this backdrop — and the fact that SME sectors suffered heavy losses in the vast majority of Member States — this performance is quite remarkable.

  • Business environment: Overall, weaknesses to date have not been a fundamental impediment for Malta´s SMEs: their recent performance has proven otherwise. However, some challenges need to be confronted yet more forcefully for the sake of Malta´s longer-term competitiveness. The limited export exposure of Malta’s SMEs – a general weakness of Malta´s SBA profile – helped many businesses by somewhat insulating them from the initial effects of the crisis. However, in the face of a limited domestic market and stagnating markets in Europe, the capacity of more firms to serve extra-EU markets needs to be further developed in the interest of their long-term competitiveness. The promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation also needs further policy responses. Important reforms initiated in the areas of ‘think small first’ and responsive administration, such as the SME test and ‘Business First’, need to be continued and implemented in coordination and consultation with stakeholders, especially those representing SMEs.

Netherlands

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 655 000 SMEs in Netherland’s private business sector, employing some 3.5 million workers and producing about 189 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 63.8% of the economic value-added and 66.3% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The Dutch SME sector has been stagnating for the past three years. SME employment and value-added have yet to climb back to the levels attained before 2010. The trend in the number of SMEs has been even more alarming, with an estimated net loss between 2010 and 2012 of some 120 000 firms. Due to the very small size of the overwhelming majority of those exits, the employment and output effects on the economy have been limited so far. Also, preliminary forecasts for Dutch SMEs point to a very moderate recovery in 2013 and 2014. Nonetheless, the risk factors which caused the stagnation in the first place are still looming large. Stagnating aggregate demand, high levels of private indebtedness in combination with a difficult real estate market and a financial sector dragged down by balance sheet problems and reluctance to lend to SMEs are creating a difficult environment for an SME recovery.

  • Business environment: The good news is that none of these problems have their roots in failed SME policies. On the contrary, the policy environment for SMEs in the Netherlands is very conducive to small firms. In terms of implementation of the SBA, and SME policies in general, there is not a single policy area where SMEs face particularly restrictive policies in the Netherlands. Think small first and responsive administration are traditional strengths of the Dutch SME policy mix. Also, internationalisation support policies are very effective. A mounting concern for a growing number of SMEs is access to finance, mainly due to the increasingly restrictive lending policies of private banks. While policy action has been taken to alleviate this problem, more efforts are needed to develop alternative channels of finance, such as venture capital, business angels and crowd funding.

Poland

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 1.47 million SMEs in Poland’s private business sector, employing some 5.9 million workers and producing about 87 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 50.5% of the economic value-added and 68.2% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Poland presents a mixed picture in terms of framework conditions for the creation and growth of SMEs. While the Polish economy is still reeling from the consequences of the 2008-09 crisis, Polish SMEs should be able to recover to pre-crisis levels in the foreseeable future. The business demography outlook for 2013 is positive and dynamic with high numbers of exits but also of new companies entering the market.

  • Business environment: The positive outlook is partly due to substantial progress achieved in SBA policy areas such as entrepreneurship and responsive administration, leading to the removal of many administrative burdens for start-ups, and a sharp decrease in registration costs for businesses. In spite of these targeted efforts, recognised in the World Bank report ‘Doing Business 2013’ — which ranked Poland as the top improver for 2012 — Polish SMEs continue to chronically underperform in some crucial areas, such as skills and innovation and exploiting potential foreign markets (single market and third countries). Moreover, SMEs are also suffering from a lack of recent policy initiatives to address the weaknesses of the Polish SME sector, which is still struggling to take up loan and credit financing.

Portugal

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 810 000 SMEs in Portugal’s private business sector, employing some 2.4 million workers and producing about 50 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 68.4% of the economic value-added and 78.6% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The economic crisis plunged Portugal into a deep and prolonged recession between 2008 and 2012, with both large and small companies experiencing decline across the board. Construction and real estate were among the hardest hit sectors. The forecast for the future leaves room for cautious optimism. By the end of 2013, the reforms implemented by Portugal are expected to halt the negative trends of recent years and start resulting in positive effects on growth and employment. Modest growth is predicted for 2014, but a full recovery to pre-crisis levels is not yet within sight.

  • Business environment: Although they faced significant economic difficulties in recent years, SMEs in Portugal also benefited from a number of positive policy changes, such as better framework conditions and support programmes for entrepreneurship, financial support for entrepreneurs, and improvements to insolvency proceedings for firms in distress. Equally, the transposition of EU law into domestic law and its application is comparatively faster in Portugal than elsewhere in the EU. Notwithstanding these positive policy developments, Portugal’s SBA performance will be further enhanced only if there are significant improvements in SME access to credit, state aid and public procurement, areas which still trail European average by considerable margins.

Romania

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 437 000 SMEs in Romania’s private business sector, employing some 2.5 million workers and producing about 25 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.7% of all businesses and account for 50.9% of the economic value-added and 65.6% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Romania’s SME sector was hit hard by the global recession of 2008-2009. It then experienced a brief recovery, but lost momentum in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, steady growth is forecast: SMEs are expected to return to pre-crisis levels in terms of their number and employment, though not yet value-added. Romania’s SME sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises, with fewer micro firms.

  • Business environment: Overall, Romania’s statistics for SMEs are below average and its SBA profile has changed little. The country’s performance is below par for seven SBA principles and is above average only for ‘Entrepreneurship’, albeit there by a large margin. One of the important measures announced for 2013 is a new law on SMEs, fully incorporating the European SBA initiative. In 2012, only a few new measures in the areas of the single market, state aid and public procurement, the environment and internationalisation were actually introduced. Overall, it is acknowledged that the economic crisis and general instability have severely hampered progress of SME policies.

Slovakia

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 378 000 SMEs in Slovakia’s private business sector, employing some 986 000 workers and producing about 18 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 55.9% of the economic value-added and 67.3% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Slovakia’s SME sector is set on a path to recovery to the 2010 levels and is characterised by a significantly higher concentration of small and medium-sized businesses compared to the EU average. Manufacturing SMEs experienced a better exit from the crisis, due to their integration into Europe-wide supply chains. The rest of the SME sector however is in much more need of support measures to modernise.

  • Business environment: In spite of selective intervention, most notably in Environment and Entrepreneurship, 2012 marked a pause in the catching-up trajectory of Slovakia SBA profile. Pending a new SBA implementation strategy, currently under preparation, the implementation of measures supporting the SMEs was delayed. SMEs would benefit from improvements in adopting the principle of Think small first in its decision-making and by the streamlining of insolvency procedures and contract enforcement, as well as from full implementation of the programme of 41 measures announced by the government.

Slovenia

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 108 000 SMEs in Slovenia’s private business sector, employing some 420 000 workers and producing about 11 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 64.1% of the economic value-added and 71.7% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: Slovenia’s SMEs are still suffering from the consequences of the crisis, to different degrees depending on the sector of activity. Manufacturing has recovered better from the 2008-09 slump, but it has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels. The construction sector is still caught up in deep economic restructuring triggered by the shortcomings of the bank sector, which in turn has affected Slovenia’s overall financial stability. As a consequence, in 2012, strong austerity measures were taken to trim spending and avoid a financial crunch.

  • Business environment: The outlook for 2013 is more positive and should provide a more favourable context to put into practice the 2012-13 SBA implementation action plan in order to meet the needs of the Slovenian business sector, especially SMEs. The next action plan should take into account the current economic situation and pave the way for a more structured and monitored SBA implementation in the future. The role of the SME envoy should be stepped up to take on more executive and coordination powers, as suggested by SME stakeholders consulted for this exercise, in order to tackle the over-bureaucratisation of public administration and establish communication channels with the business community.

Spain

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 2.23 million SMEs in Spain’s private business sector, employing some 8.1 million workers and producing about 284 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.9% of all businesses and account for 64.8% of the economic value-added and 74.9% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The crisis plunged Spain into a protracted recession between 2008 and 2012, with both large and small enterprises experiencing significant declines. Among sectors, constructions and manufacturing were hit the most. The reforms currently implemented by Spain should have a positive effect on growth and employment, but their effect will not become evident until 2014. Export performance by SMEs and large companies is expected to be the main envisioned source of growth on the short and medium term.

  • Business environment: Although faced with significant economic difficulties in recent years, Spanish SMEs have also benefited from a number of positive policy changes, such as better framework conditions and financial support for entrepreneurs, and improvements to the bankruptcy framework providing alternatives to insolvency proceeding for firms in distress. Equally, the transposition and application of EU law is comparatively faster in Spain than in the EU on average. Notwithstanding these positive policy developments, further enhancing Spain’s SBA performance will require significant improvements in access to credit, state aid and public procurement for SMEs, areas which still trail the European averages by considerable margins.

Sweden

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 631 000 SMEs in Sweden’s private business sector, employing some 1.9 million workers and producing about 101 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.8% of all businesses and account for 57.4% of the economic value-added and 64.8% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: During the last two decades in Sweden, SMEs have played an increasingly important economic role. However, SMEs also suffered more from the economic crisis. Thus, from 2008 to 2012, large companies (LEs) slightly outperformed SMEs: while employment and value-added in SMEs decreased by about 1 %, value-added in LEs increased by more than 3 % and employment grew almost 1 %. The prognosis for 2013 and 2014 anticipates sustained growth in the SME sector, with all key indicators close or already above the pre-crisis levels.

  • Business environment: Sweden provides a favourable business environment for SMEs, revealing an above-average performance and stable development over recent years. Sweden has very good results in most SBA areas, with seven of the 10 principles being above the EU average. It does particularly well in ‘access to finance’, ‘internationalisation’ and ‘think small first’, where it ranks among the top EU performers.

United Kingdom

  • State of the SMEs: In 2012, there were more than 1.66 million SMEs in UK’s private business sector, employing some 9.4 million workers and producing about 473 billion EUR in value added to the economy. They represent 99.6% of all businesses and account for 49.8% of the economic value-added and 52.4% of employment in the private non-financial sector.

  • Recovery from the crisis: The United Kingdom boasts a very competitive business environment which has enabled its SMEs to maintain a high level of employment, although the number of SMEs and value-added has fallen since the onset of the crisis in 2008. The outlook for 2014 is positive with increases expected in the number of SMEs, employment and value-added and with the ICT sector (information and communication) being a major driver.

  • Business environment: In many SBA policy areas, such as second chance, the environment, public procurement and state aid as well as internationalisation, the United Kingdom scores well above the EU average. The United Kingdom is traditionally an EU front-runner in terms of its business environment. Therefore, it can afford to take a more targeted approach with policy measures concentrated in a selected number of SBA areas, especially access to finance. Despite the United Kingdom’s well developed financial industry, many SMEs in the UK continue to struggle to get proper access to loan and credit financing. The measures announced in 2012, in particular the new ‘business bank’, aim to address this problem head on.

1 :

Adopted in 2008 and revised in 2011, the SBA aims to create a level playing field for SMEs throughout the EU and improve the administrative and legal environment to allow these enterprises to unleash their full potential to create jobs and growth. The Small Business Act has a strong governance structure, with business organizations and member states governments at the frontline.

2 :

The information concerning the recent policy measures adopted by the Member States was compiled by a network of SME experts managed by CARSA Spain and was validated by government representatives of the Member States and the participating countries. The factsheets were prepared by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, in conjunction with the Joint Research Centre.

3 :

The figures presented in the trend charts represent estimates for 2011-2014, based on 2008-2010 figures from the Structural Business Statistics Database (Eurostat). The estimates were produced by London Economics. The data cover the 'business economy' which includes industry, construction, trade, and services (NACE Rev. 2 Sections B to J, L, M and N). The data does not cover agriculture, forestry, or fishing businesses or the largely non-market services such as education and health.

4 :

The value-added of the SME sector basically measures its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). GDP adds together the value of output produced by each of the productive sectors in the economy, using the concept of value-added. The value-added is the increase in the value of a product at each successive stage of the production process. This approach avoids the problem of double-counting of the value of intermediate inputs.


Side Bar

Mon compte

Gérez vos recherches et notifications par email


Aidez-nous à améliorer ce site