Reader’s Guide

SME and entrepreneurship financing trends are monitored through core indicators, listed in Table 1, selected on the criteria of usefulness, availability, feasibility and timeliness (see the Annex for a detailed description). In detail, the core indicators describe and monitor the following key dimensions:

The Scoreboard data are provided by experts designated by participating countries. Most of the indicators are derived from supply-side data provided by financial institutions, statistical offices and other government agencies. This is supplemented by national and regional demand-side surveys in order to provide a more comprehensive view of the evolution of financing trends and needs. Indicators cover access to finance for employer firms, that is, for SMEs which have at least one employee, and are operating a non-financial business. The data in the present edition cover the period 2007 to 2022. Specific attention is placed on developments occurring in 2021, 2022 and the first half of 2023. In addition, information on government policies to ease SMEs’ access to finance is also collected on a systematic basis.

The published print version includes a chapter on emerging trends in SME and entrepreneurship finance, drawing on information provided by participating countries, a thematic chapter, focusing for this edition on the sustainable finance landscape for SMEs and the strategies and approaches from financial institutions towards its SME clients. The printed version also includes an annex and a two-page snapshot for every participating country. This snapshot summarises the state of play regarding SME access to finance in each country, while the full country profiles will be available on the OECD website only.

At the individual country level, the Scoreboard provides a coherent picture of SMEs' access to finance over time and monitors changing conditions for SME financing, as well as the impact of policies. There are limits to possible cross-country comparisons, however. Firstly, the statistical definition of an SME differs among participating countries; while the European Union definition is the most commonly used, participating countries outside of the Union usually define an SME differently, which complicates cross-country comparisons (see the Annex for detailed definitions of SMEs across participating countries).

In addition, differences in the definition and coverage for indicators hamper comparability, with a number of countries not able to adhere to the “preferred definition” of the core indicators. A proxy has been adopted in these instances. For this reason, all country profiles include a table, which provides the definition adopted for each indicator and a reference to the data source. Despite these limitations, it is still possible to compare general trends across countries, as the differences in the exact composition of the single indicator are muted when evaluating rates of change. Country profiles in the printed edition of this publication are abbreviated to two pages with key facts and the table with core indicators, while the full profiles remain available online.

There have been important methodological and structural improvements in recent editions of this report. More detailed information regarding the sources and definitions of core indicators have been provided for participating countries. Since June 2016, the Scoreboard data are available on the OECD.Stat website. Data on core indicators can be consulted, downloaded and put to further use, thereby addressing a longstanding demand to improve access to the data, and exposure of the publication to a wider audience. In addition, more information is provided on the uptake of financial instruments other than straight debt, and further endeavours will be undertaken in this area for future editions of the publication.

Furthermore, the Scoreboard now seeks to collect disaggregated data on SME and entrepreneurship finance and financing conditions. The 2023 Scoreboard Highlights was the first edition to present the first early findings and this 2024 edition presented more insights on the disaggregated data by TL2 regions. These efforts, in addition to being in line with the 2022 Updated High-Level Principles on SME Financing and the OECD Recommendation on SME Financing, are a crucial improvement for the Scoreboard, considering the significant heterogeneity of the SME population and the impact that these underlying characteristics have on access to finance and financing conditions. Data collection and related analysis has started by geographical location and by gender of the principal owner, and efforts to improve country and time coverage are continuously being pursued. In particular, additional efforts are needed on the collection of gender disaggregated data, as few countries appear to be collecting this information, despite its high policy relevance. In this context, the OECD is also collaborating with other international initiatives which seeks to strengthen information on access to finance by women-owned businesses.

The collection of additional dimensions (e.g. sector of operation and firm size) is foreseen to be incorporated in the near future. Overall, the incorporation of these dimensions will provide a better understanding of SME and entrepreneurship finance trends, would significantly continue to strengthen the usefulness of the Scoreboard, contribute to a better understanding of the heterogeneity of SME segments, enrich the evidence base and support policy efforts focused on SME and entrepreneurship financing.

Finally, efforts are ongoing to increase the coverage of participating countries and to harmonise the data from already participating countries.

A summary of recommendations to further improve data collection and reporting of core indicators are outlined in Box 1 (see the Annex for a more detailed discussion). Actions in these areas can enable countries to progress in the harmonisation of definitions and facilitate inter-temporal and cross-country analysis of trends in SME and entrepreneurship finance.

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