Chapter 39. Spain

Figure 39.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Spain
Figure 39.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Spain

Sources: Charts A, C, D: OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018,; Chart B: OECD Timely Indicators of Entrepreneurship Database 2018 for new enterprise creations; and Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2018: An OECD Scoreboard for bankruptcies; Chart E. OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018, Employer Business Demography dataset.


SME business conditions and access to strategic resources

Institutional and regulatory framework

Spanish SMEs benefit from a supportive administrative and regulatory framework as compared to the OECD median. However, regional regulatory differences create barriers to achieving a single domestic market, and progress on implementing the Market Unity Law is slow. The government reinforced the legal implementation framework of the SME test in 2017. In addition, the insolvency regime remains constraining and recent reforms have aimed to improve business liquidity and access to credit. The Business Health Tool (2017) provides free online support to entrepreneurs for assessing the viability of their business. Besides, the Government has recently approved the first Strategic Framework for Spanish SMEs, conceived as an instrument for improving SME competitiveness and growth possibilities.

Market conditions

The share of Spanish exporting SMEs has increased since 2011 but remains relatively low compared to the OECD area. The Internationalisation Strategy of the Spanish Economy (2017-27) puts an emphasis on supporting SMEs to export and invest abroad, including financial support. Levelling the playing field in public procurement is another market issue in Spain, as there is room for reducing payment delays and tendering requirements for SMEs. The Public Sector Contracts Act 2017 provides a new legislative framework for SME access to public contracting with more simplified and transparent procedures. It also establishes the division of contracts into smaller lots and provides payment protections to subcontracted SMEs.


Spain has high quality infrastructure. Gaps between regions are therefore less of an issue in Spain than institutional barriers. Fixed and mobile broadband penetration are on par with the OECD median, although price to fixed broadband basket remain comparatively extremely high. The government is currently working on a new Digital Strategy for Smart Spain, which will place a strong focus on skills development and addressing business needs.

Access to finance

SME financing conditions have been improving in Spain since 2014. SME lending (mainly in the form of short-term loans) recovered after a dramatic drop during the crisis. Interest rates and interest rate spreads have declined and credit conditions have stabilised. Venture capital investments also increased to EUR 1.1 billion between 2015 and 2016. The government has committed to increasing the financing available for SMEs. Since 2016, the Centre for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) earmarked EUR 700 million in the form of loans and VC funding to SMEs with high tech content. ENISA has become the leading support institution for entrepreneurship, mainly through participative loans. ENISA growth, in particular, targets firms with growth potential.

Access to skills

Skills demand is polarised in Spain, with many jobs requiring either high-level or low-level qualifications. The labour market shows high unemployment (20% in 2016), overqualification and a high level of temporary contracts. On-the-job training remains below OECD standards. The Strategic Plan for Vocational Education and Training (2016-20) foresees enhancing quality, recognition and mobility. Training vouchers for the unemployed, administrated by regional governments, were also introduced in 2017.

Access to innovation assets

Spanish SMEs invest less in ICT equipment than their OECD counterparts but are proactive in adopting high-speed broadband. They also engage less in innovation activities, although their digital business practices is on par with the median. The Strategic Plan (2017-20) provides momentum to the development of digital ecosystems and support to SME ICT use. Since 2017, the National Strategy “Industria Conectada 4.0” has engaged several actions towards SMEs, including an on-line diagnostic application (HADA), Advisors for Connected Industry 4.0 (Activa), awareness campaigns (Congreso IC4) and preferential loans for financing digitalisation projects. The Comprehensive Plan to Boost the Competitiveness of Retail Trade 2017 aims to adapt the sector to new purchasing environments, especially SME operation on digital platforms, and to respond to new consumer behaviours. SMEs also receive enhanced support for doing business online with the E-commerce Impulse programme (2017). And the Intellectual Property Strategic Plan (2017-20) aims to integrate data protection into the Spanish business culture.

The full country profile is available at


Competitiveness, S. (2017), Estrategia de Internacionalización de la Economía Española 2017, (accessed on 26 November 2018).

EC (2018), Spain - Investments and infrastructure, EU Transport Scoreboard, (accessed on 28 November 2018).

OECD (2018), OECD Economic Surveys: Spain 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2017), Getting Skills Right: Spain, Getting Skills Right, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2017), OECD Economic Surveys: Spain 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Spain Ministry of Economy Industry and Competitiveness (2017), Plan Integral de Apoyo a la Competitividad del Comercio Minorista de España 2017, (accessed on 26 November 2018).

Spain Ministry of Energy Tourism and Digital Agenda (2017), Plan Estratégico de (2017-20), (accessed on 26 November 2018).

Spanish Government (2017), Intern ationalisation of the Economy and Retail Trade,

Spanish Government (2017), Retrato de la PYME - Dirce a 1 de enero de 2017,

End of the section – Back to iLibrary publication page