Since 2020, the global economy has been hit by a series of shocks, with strong impacts for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which make up the vast majority of the business population. The COVID-19 crisis was followed by a surge in inflation. This inflation impacted SMEs in particular, as they have limited ability to pass the increase in input costs to customers without losing competitiveness. The steep increase in policy interest rates in most countries around the world and the tighter lending environment have also impacted the cost and access to finance for SMEs, which traditionally rely on debt to finance operations and investments.

As a result, the 2024 edition of Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs: An OECD Scoreboard documents significant volatility in SME finance. This includes an increase in the cost of SME financing in 2022, unprecedented in the history of the exercise, alongside a significant decline in SME lending. If stringent financing conditions persist, the downward trend in SME financing is likely to continue. Developments in the financing environment also contributed to volatility in equity finance, which declined sharply in 2022 after historically high growth in 2021. Women-led and minority-owned businesses, which typically find it more difficult to access venture capital financing, were disproportionately affected. For the first time, the 2024 edition also provides an analysis of disaggregated data at the subnational level on key Scoreboard indicators, which shows more regional variation in the stock of SME loans compared to the provision of government loan guarantees for SMEs.

Against this backdrop, governments around the world have been taking measures to support SMEs and preserve their access to finance. These measures include both immediate interventions, such as shielding them against the increase in input costs, and more long-term structural initiatives, such as diversifying financial sources and instruments, promoting gender equality in access to capital and streamlining payments. These measures aim to help different types of SMEs and entrepreneurs sustain investments and strengthen their resilience to future challenges. In particular, there is a growing emphasis on the crucial role SMEs must play in building net-zero economies, and the need to harness sustainable finance to foster SME participation in the green transition. However, more needs to be done to close the gap, as SMEs continue to face important constraints in access to and uptake of sustainable finance.

In a context of continued economic volatility and the need to accelerate critical transitions, the Scoreboard will continue to monitor the latest developments in SME financing and the policy landscape in this area, in order to support governments in designing policies that address SME financing needs, enhance their resilience and contribute to a sustainable and inclusive economy.


Lamia Kamal-Chaoui

Director, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities

Legal and rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2024

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at