Global SME Statistics in 2020 

March 09, 2021
A 2019 report by the Office of Advocacy in the US showed that SMEs were responsible for 44% of economic activity. Similarly in Europe, the SME sector is the backbone of EU economies. They are responsible for the majority of new jobs in the European Union.

Almost all SME statistics produced in the last year are focused on the detrimental impact the global Covid-19 pandemic is having on society and business. It is likely the full impact of the pandemic on SME development, job creation and supply chain has yet to be felt or understood.  However, we can get some idea of the struggles micro and small businesses around the world have faced: 

Research conducted across several countries during the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020 showed:

  • 96% of SMEs in the US had been impacted by the pandemic by March 2020.
  • By April in the UK almost 40% of SMEs were planning on laying off 75-100% of their staff the following week.
  • By May in Thailand 90% of firms were expecting extreme revenue loss. 
  • A further survey of 30,000 small business leaders from across 50 countries by the OECD made for some stark statistics:
  • More than one quarter of those surveyed had been closed for some period from January and May 2020.
  • One third have reduced their workforce.
  • Almost two-thirds have reduced sales when compared to last year, particularly those in consumer facing sectors like tourism and hospitality. 
  • This research also showed the stark gender disparity in the businesses that are impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. Female owned business were 5.9 percentage points more likely to have closed their business than their male counterparts. 

Fortunately, most research found SME leadership and employees to be resilient people who remained optimistic about making a good recovery:

  • A US survey by Verizon business showed 68% of small businesses indicated they expect to be able to recoup their Covid-19 related losses
  • Similarly, in Australia, 80% of companies felt comfortable that their organizations will be able to rebound effectively from the difficulties experienced. 
  • Almost three quarters of SMEs that were closed at the time of completing the OECD survey were optimistic about re-opening once the restrictions are lifted. 

For many SMEs the Covid-19 crises has accelerated their move to teleworking and digital sales:

  • In the initial months of work from home orders a study by the US chamber of commerce found employers moving some employees to teleworking increased from 12% to 20%.
  • In Germany, 80% of employees that worked in mandatory in-person offices expected the pandemic to make their employers more flexible when it came to working arrangements.
  • Research by Facebook on the US market showed that 51% of SMEs increased online interactions with clients to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. 
  • In the US, SMEs would require financial (42%) and ecommerce (40%) support in order to recover from the challenges of the last year. 


Although it has been an incredibly difficult year for SMEs a vaccination programme is the light at the end of the tunnel for most countries. After this we may see a return to a level of normality where SMEs may benefit from pent up demand, particularly in the areas of hospitality and tourism which have been so badly hit.

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