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:

Table 1. Core indicators in financing SMEs and entrepreneurs, 2019

Core indicators


What they show

The allocation and structure of bank credit to SMEs

Outstanding business loans, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

SME demand for and access to bank credit. A stock indicator measuring the value of an asset at a given point in time, and thus reflecting both new lending, as well as bank loans that have accumulated over time along with loan repayments.

Outstanding business loans, total

Volumes in national currency

Share of SME outstanding loans

% of total outstanding loans

New business lending, total

Volumes in national currency

SME demand for and access to bank credit. It is a flow indicator, measured over one year, which tends to respond faster to short-term developments and is therefore more volatile than stocks.

New business lending, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

Share of new SME lending

% of total new lending

Short-term loans, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

The structure of SME debt, i.e. the share of outstanding credit with an initial maturity of less than one year and more than one year, respectively. This could be considered as a proxy to gauge the purpose of SME bank loans, i.e. for operational and investment needs.

Long-term loans, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

Extent of public support for SME finance

Government loan guarantees, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

These indicators illustrate the extent and uptake of government programmes and instruments supporting SMEs' access to finance.

Government guaranteed loans, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

Direct government loans, SMEs

Volumes in national currency

Credit costs and conditions

Interest rate, SMEs


The cost of SME loans and how it compares to large firms.

Interest rate, large firms


Interest rate spread

Percentage points

Collateral, SMEs

% of SMEs needing collateral to obtain bank lending

Proxies the conditions SMEs face when applying for bank credit.

Percentage of SME loan applications

SME loan applications/ total number of SMEs, in %

The (unmet) demand for and utilisation of credit by SMEs, and willingness of banks to lend.

Rejection rate

1-(SME loans authorised/ requested), in %

Utilisation rate

SME loans used/ authorised, in %

Non-bank sources of finance

Venture and growth capital investments

Volumes in national currency and year-on-year growth rate in %

The take-up and ability to access non-bank finance instruments, including external equity for start-up, early development and expansion stages, as well as asset-based finance, such as leasing, hire purchases, factoring and invoice discounting.

Leasing and hire purchases

Volumes in national currency

Factoring and invoice discounting

Volumes in national currency

Financial health

Non-performing loans, total

% of total business loans

The incidence of late or non-payments for SME loans, compared to the overall corporate sector. This proxies the (relative) riskiness of lending to SMEs.

Non-performing loans, SMEs

% of total SME loans

Payment delays, B2B

Number of days

The occurrence of payment delays in the B2B sector, i.e. the difficulty in paying and being paid, to capture the extent of cash flow problems.

Bankruptcies, SMEs

Number and year-on-year growth rate in %

A proxy for the overall business environment in which SMEs operate and the ability of small firms to survive economic downturns and credit crunches.

Data collection

The scoreboard data are provided by national 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 SME 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 2017, 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 2016, 2017 and the first half of 2018. 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 potential to collateralise SMEs’ intangible assets, 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 are available on the OECD website only.

Cross-country comparability

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 (EU) definition is the most commonly used, participating countries outside of the EU 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 in which it is not possible 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, though, as the differences in the exact composition of the single indicator are muted when evaluating rates of change.

Methodological advances and recommendations for data improvements

Recent editions of this report have incorporated a number of important methodological and structural improvements. More detailed information regarding the source and definition of core indicators has been provided for participating countries. Since June 2016, the Scoreboard data are available on the OECD.Stat website and regularly updated. Data on core indicators can be consulted and downloaded for further use, thereby addressing a longstanding demand to improve access, usability, and exposure of the publication to a wider audience.

In addition, more information is provided on the uptake of various financial instruments other than straight debt, and further endeavours will be undertaken in this area for future editions of the publication. 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. Efforts are also ongoing to increase the coverage of participating countries and to harmonise the data from already participating countries, as well as to analyse the data more rigorously. The 2019 publication includes the main result of a regression and cluster analysis, which could be further fine-tuned in future editions.

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