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 Annex A 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 in 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 2020, assessing trends over the medium term, both in the pre-crisis period (2007), the financial crisis (2008 and 2009) and the period afterwards. Specific attention is placed on developments occurring in 2019, 2020 and the first half of 2021. 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 how SME financing needs and instruments are reflected in the COVID-19 recovery packages, annexes, 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 SME 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 Annex A for detailed definitions of SMEs across participating countries).

In addition, differences in 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.

Efforts are also underway to include more disaggregated data on SME and entrepreneurship financing, given the significant heterogeneity of the SME population and the impact that these underlying characteristics have on access to finance and financing conditions. Based on the results of a survey among country experts four dimensions are being explored: sector of operation, firm size, gender of principal owner and geographical location. A better understanding of SME and entrepreneurship finance trends along these dimensions would significantly 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 Annex A 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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