The value of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Europe has slowed, new figures show, compared to the two years preceding 2013.
According to the annual SMEs Performance Review compiled by the European Commission, businesses in the space ‘struggled’ during 2013 – but there is now ‘signs of positive economic recovery’.
During 2013, the numbers of SMEs and the cumulative value added stood above pre-crisis levels recorded in 2008, but employment was ‘some way below’ that mark having dipped by 1.9 million employees – a figure that is 2.16 per cent below the 2008 mark.
Furthermore, the positive value-add statistic is slower than in 2012 when 1.5 per cent was noted, and 2011 when it was 4.2 per cent.
Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, says, ‘The continued difficulties facing SMEs underline the need for the EU and the member states to continue their efforts to improve the business climate.
‘We need SMEs to create jobs and the indicators published make it clear that more needs to be done to address obstacles such as difficulty accessing finance if we are to achieve sustained growth among SMEs all across the EU.’
The Commission says that recovery is being primarily driven by medium-sized businesses and micro-firms, while small firms ‘lag behind’. SMEs in construction and manufacturing were hit harder by the crisis, it reveals, while business services, information/communication and real estate proved to be ‘dynamic’.
Looking forward, the value added generated by SMEs in the EU is predicted to grow, rising by 2.8 per cent in 2014 and 3.4 per cent in 2014. Employment is also expected to grow by 0.1 per cent in 2014 and 0.7 per cent in 2015 – a cumulative increase of 740,000 positions.
When the 28 countries of the European Union are brought together, 2013 saw some 21.6 million SMEs in the non-financial business sector employ 88.8 million people and generate €3.666 trillion in value added.