OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook 2021

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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs have been hit hard during the COVID-19 crisis. Policy responses were quick and unprecedented, helping cushion the blow and maintain most SMEs and entrepreneurs afloat. Despite the magnitude of the shock, available data so far point to sustained start-ups creation, no wave of bankruptcies, and an impulse to innovation in most OECD countries. However, government support has been less effective at reaching the self-employed, smaller and younger firms, women, and entrepreneurs from minorities. Countries were not all even in their capacity to support SMEs either. As vaccine campaigns roll out and economic prospects brighten, governments have to take the turn of a crisis exit and create the conditions to build back better. The OECD SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook 2021 brings new evidence on the impact of the crisis and policy responses on SMEs and entrepreneurs. It reflects on longer-term issues, such as SME indebtedness or SME role in more resilient supply chains or innovation diffusion. The report contains country profiles that benchmark impact, factors of vulnerability, and sources of resilience in OECD countries, and give a policy spotlight on liquidity support and recovery plans for SMEs.

English Also available in: French

Executive summary

Restrictions to mobility, trade and activities taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the most severe global recession in the post-war period. All firms and sectors were, directly or indirectly, affected, but small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were hit particularly hard. Overrepresented in the most exposed sectors (e.g. food and accommodation services), they often had to close operations. Among those that were able to continue operations, many saw significant falls in revenue and faced severe liquidity shortages as a result. According to the Facebook/ OECD/ World Bank Future of Business Survey, among SMEs that remained open from May to December 2020, between 55-70% saw sales fall, with two thirds experiencing falls of more than 40%.

English Also available in: French

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