Enterprises by size

Key findings

  • In all countries, the vast majority of enterprises (between 70% and 95%) are micro-businesses, i.e. enterprises with fewer than ten persons employed, and in most countries over half of all enterprises are non-employer enterprises, i.e. enterprises with no employees such as the self-employed who work on their own account and do not employ other persons.

  • Partly reflecting the higher entry costs and capital intensity in manufacturing, SMEs in OECD countries are disproportionately located in the services sector, with high numbers of non-employer enterprises in wholesale and retail trade and construction activities.

  • In around half of OECD economies, especially those hit hard by the crisis, the number of enterprises in 2014 remained below levels in 2008. The construction sector was especially affected, and to a lesser extent manufacturing, but services fared much better in most OECD economies. In all sectors growth in the number of SMEs typically outperformed growth in larger enterprises in most OECD economies.

Relevance

Small businesses can be important drivers of growth and innovation. Without a conducive business environment, however, they may face barriers to growth, in particular in capital-intensive sectors where access to finance and integration into global value chains are important determinants of success.

Definitions

An enterprise is defined as the smallest combination of legal units that is an organisational unit producing goods or services, which benefits from a certain degree of autonomy in decision-making, especially for the allocation of its current resources. An enterprise carries out one or more activities at one or more locations.

The basis for size classification is the total number of persons employed, which includes the self-employed.

In this publication, micro-enterprises are defined as firms with 1-9 persons employed; small enterprises: 10-49; medium enterprises: 50-249; and large enterprises: 250 and more. The group of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) refers to the size class 1-249.

The number of persons employed corresponds to the total number of persons who work for the observation unit, including working proprietors, partners working regularly in the unit and unpaid family workers.

Information on data for Israel: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932315602.

Comparability

All countries present information using the enterprise as the statistical unit except Korea and Mexico, which use establishments. Since most enterprises in these countries, as elsewhere, consist of only one establishment, comparability issues are not expected to be significant in relation to the total population of businesses, but comparisons relating to the proportion of smaller firms will be upward biased, compared to other countries, while comparisons relating to the proportion of larger firms will be downward biased.

The size-class breakdown 1-9, 10-19, 20-49, 50-249, 250+ provides for the best comparability given the varying data collection practices across countries. Some countries use different conventions: the size class “1-9” refers to “1-10” for Mexico and “1-19” for Australia and Turkey; the size class “10-19” refers to “11-50” for Mexico; the size class “20-49” refers to “20-199” for Australia; the size class “50-249” refers to “50-299” for Japan and Korea, and “51-250” for Mexico; finally, the size class “250+” refers to “200+” for Australia, “300+” for Japan and Korea, and “251+” for Mexico.

For Canada, the United States and the Russian Federation, data do not include non-employer enterprise counts. For the business economy, estimates of non-employer enterprises amount to approximately 1.7 million in Canada, 15.3 million in the United States, and to 2.5 million in the Russian Federation. Data for Switzerland exclude businesses with less than 3 persons employed.

Data for Finland and Portugal exhibit a break in the series in 2013 and for Canada and France in 2014. Data for the United Kingdom exclude an estimate of 2.6 million small unregistered businesses; these are businesses below the thresholds of the value-added tax regime and/or the “pay as you earn (PAYE)” (for employing firms) regime.

In Figure 2.4, the Business Demography dataset is used as data source; this dataset covers non-employer enterprises for all countries including Switzerland.

Sources

OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics (SDBS) (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/sdbs-data-en.

Further reading

OECD (2017), Small, Medium, Strong. Trends in SME Performance and Business Conditions, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264275683-en.

OECD (2010), Structural and Demographic Business Statistics, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264072886-en.

Ahmad N. (2007), The OECD’s Business Statistics Database and Publication, Paper presented at the Structural Business Statistics Expert Meeting, Paris, 10-11 May 2007, www.oecd.org/dataoecd/59/34/38516035.pdf.

Figure 2.1. Number of enterprises, by size and main sector, selected countries
2008=100
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563056

Figure 2.2. Enterprises by size, business economy
Percentage of all enterprises, 2014, or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563075

Table 2.1. Number of enterprises by size and main sector
2014, or latest available year

Country

Manufacturing (10-33, ISIC4)

Services (45-82 excluding 64-66, ISIC4)

Construction (41-43, ISIC4)

1-9

10-19

20-49

50-249

250+

1-9

10-19

20-49

50-249

250+

1-9

10-19

20-49

50-249

250+

Australia

116,480

6,403

491

1,023,185

29,162

1,899

337,841

4,179

166

Austria

18,576

2,842

2,182

1,456

468

228,685

15,980

7,586

3,070

483

27,984

3,593

1,985

597

68

Belgium

29,944

2,331

1,992

1,169

311

425,095

12,262

6,321

2,256

470

101,414

2,695

1,362

476

51

Brazil

218,056

52,029

36,051

17,029

3,830

2,436,010

201,195

89,385

29,583

6,317

79,672

18,141

12,975

6,786

1,444

Canada

27,887

8,202

7,842

5,545

1,426

442,857

84,182

58,994

26,516

4,232

114,195

14,314

8,578

3,605

554

Czech Republic

157,909

4,427

3,866

3,045

794

608,722

11,693

6,370

2,704

537

166,011

2,674

1,521

546

54

Denmark

10,686

1,800

1,374

955

192

145,333

7,817

4,621

2,169

394

27,876

1,929

1,096

338

42

Estonia

4,984

589

548

429

63

43,761

1,916

1,065

506

85

8,189

507

252

71

10

Finland

17,035

1,707

1,279

822

199

149,499

6,656

3,488

1,531

327

38,495

2,035

988

273

36

France

205,876

12,761

9,554

5,545

1,357

2,194,656

46,097

28,660

11,901

2,455

553,442

13,717

6,858

1,487

229

Germany

138,436

37,010

16,420

16,484

4,252

1,650,651

149,686

83,924

34,690

6,205

282,570

41,135

11,180

3,417

233

Greece

55,447

1,132

936

581

115

529,809

13,366

4,677

1,542

211

82,243

1,549

688

177

15

Hungary

40,097

3,131

2,360

1,623

403

382,982

11,125

4,869

2,045

352

53,212

2,275

979

279

20

Ireland

12,503

823

664

494

144

153,628

7,838

4,142

1,876

273

46,180

731

333

89

16

Israel

19,287

1,850

1,420

1,061

191

322,699

12,455

7,629

3,437

639

53,390

2,702

1,152

275

21

Italy

328,486

39,402

18,988

8,349

1,197

2,649,255

61,824

21,397

8,512

1,639

509,648

14,000

4,335

1,041

79

Japan

315,669

42,791

34,305

21,591

3,576

1,845,690

124,559

77,552

39,878

6,836

397,861

36,298

16,781

4,827

545

Korea

328,505

33,847

23,963

10,155

701

2,321,477

74,551

37,252

15,522

1,486

106,539

13,080

6,017

2,353

226

Latvia

7,859

756

655

476

59

73,262

3,186

1,727

749

117

8,030

687

488

203

16

Lithuania

15,006

1,182

956

699

132

115,962

4,767

2,518

1,077

152

25,550

1,007

646

304

36

Luxembourg

503

101

105

78

25

24,083

1,421

771

380

97

2,592

443

352

137

18

Mexico

430,971

39,242

8,338

7,431

3,548

2,509,306

186,689

32,713

16,808

2,087

4,904

6,429

3,370

2,069

291

Netherlands

53,105

3,382

2,657

1,924

326

790,223

18,447

10,867

5,427

1,042

149,560

2,791

1,601

683

113

New Zealand

7,956

1,851

1,287

594

132

57,351

8,754

4,440

1,983

309

17,205

1,821

846

273

21

Norway

13,898

1,308

1,040

646

124

193,988

8,975

4,265

1,832

402

50,538

2,767

1,402

399

44

Poland

157,056

8,580

7,327

6,131

1,545

1,066,190

20,258

12,038

6,286

1,226

221,638

4,438

2,927

1,340

154

Portugal

54,420

5,527

3,943

2,061

250

610,235

11,571

5,287

2,137

413

73,245

2,845

1,271

433

50

Romania

34,577

5,174

4,438

3,118

784

320,262

17,272

8,964

3,506

609

40,669

3,805

2,296

956

87

Russian Federation

146,355

24,594

23,509

16,061

4,428

1,238,672

123,612

82,829

38,918

4,264

196,983

26,146

21,049

10,156

1,105

Slovak Republic

60,348

2,201

1,187

964

275

239,723

3,590

2,079

1,015

203

82,645

733

377

158

14

Slovenia

16,452

947

578

477

107

86,592

2,023

1,040

450

80

17,098

679

262

84

10

Spain

140,164

12,397

9,176

4,124

728

1,733,714

49,478

23,401

8,929

1,794

335,541

6,947

3,319

893

121

Sweden

47,482

2,752

2,072

1,284

306

473,822

12,574

7,144

3,206

567

91,020

3,370

1,755

501

48

Switzerland

11,476

4,432

3,072

1,933

389

73,093

16,782

8,015

3,573

664

14,118

4,257

2,425

798

63

Turkey

607,180

-

18,076

9,384

1,784

3,815,186

-

25,727

9,960

2,064

312,450

-

10,048

4,553

442

United Kingdom

95,804

13,081

9,485

6,220

1,377

1,274,346

86,371

42,248

18,640

4,299

252,747

11,003

4,873

1,832

315

United States

228,477

46,273

37,114

22,893

5,543

2,742,717

344,321

223,482

100,313

19,732

511,722

53,162

31,594

12,375

1,353

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933564994

Figure 2.3. Number of enterprises and GDP
2014, or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563094

Figure 2.4. Share of non-employer enterprises, business economy
Percentage of business population, 2014, or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563113

Figure 2.5. SMEs by economic activity
Percentage of total number of SMEs, 2014, or latest available year
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563132

Figure 2.6. Change in the number of enterprises by size, business economy
Average annual percentage change between 2008 and 2014
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563151

Figure 2.7. Change in number of enterprises, by size and main sector
Average annual percentage change between 2008 and 2014
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933563170