Micro-enterprises, as well as small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), are considered as a driver of the economy of the European Union (EU), creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. In 2012, of the 22.3 million enterprises in the EU’s non-financial business economy, an overwhelming majority (92.7%) were micro-enterprises (with 0 to 9 persons employed) accounting for 29.2% of employment, 7.1% were small and medium enterprises (with 10 to 249 persons employed) accounting for 38.0% of employment, and 0.2% were large enterprises (with 250 or more persons employed) accounting for 33.0% of persons employed.
2.3 million enterprises were created in 2012 across the EU. Most of them (70.8%) had no employees. These sole entrepreneurs represented 46.9% of all persons employed in newly-born enterprises.
Highest share of micro-enterprises in Greece, lowest in Germany
In all EU Member States, the vast majority of enterprises in the non-financial business economy were micro enterprises (fewer than 10 persons employed), with the highest shares being recorded in Greece (96.7%), Slovakia (96.5%), the Czech Republic (96.0%), Poland and Portugal (both 95.2%), Italy (94.9%) and France (94.8%). The share of small enterprises (10 to 49 persons employed) was below 10% in every Member State, except Germany (14.7%), Austria (10.9%), Luxembourg (10.6%) and Romania (10.2%) It is also in these four Member States that the highest shares of medium enterprises (50 to 249 persons employed) were observed. For large enterprises (at least 250 persons employed), the share was 0.5% or lower in all Member States for which data are available.
Highest shares of employment in micro-enterprises in Greece and Italy
In the majority of the EU Member States for which data are available, micro-enterprises accounted for the largest share of persons employed with proportions above 40% in a number of Southern EU Member States: Greece (58.6%), Italy (46.4%), Portugal (42.3%) and Spain (40.8%). In contrast, fewer than 1 person out of 5 was employed in a micro-enterprise in the United Kingdom (17.3% – see country note), Luxembourg (18.0%) and Germany (19.0%). At EU level, large enterprises were the first employer (accounting for 33.0% of all persons employed), followed by micro-enterprises (29.2%), small enterprises (20.8%) and medium enterprises (17.2%).
Highest share of new sole-entrepreneurs in France
With 308 000 enterprises created, in 2012 France was the EU Member State with the highest number of newlyborn enterprises, ahead of Italy (275 000), Spain (248 000), the United Kingdom (242 000), Germany (238 000) and Poland (229 000). Overall in the EU, 2.3 million enterprises were created in 2012. Unsurprisingly, in almost all EU Member States, the majority of newly-born enterprises had no employees (sole-entrepreneurs). The highest share of enterprises created without any employee was registered in France (92.3%), followed at a distance by Poland (86.9%), the Netherlands (86.4%) and the Czech Republic (86.1%). Only in three Member States was the main size class of newly-born enterprises not sole-entrepreneurs but enterprises with 1 to 4 employees: the United Kingdom (where 80.5% of all newly-born enterprises had between 1 and 4 employees – see country note), Cyprus (67.7%) and Croatia (47.7%). In the EU, 70.8% of newly-born enterprises had no employees, 26.4% 1 to 4 employees, 1.9% 5 to 9 employees and 0.9% 10 or more employees.
Among Member States for which data are available, sole-entrepreneurs accounted for the largest share of employment in newly-born enterprises in fourteen Member States. This was particularly the case in France (where newly-born enterprises without any employee represented 75.9% of total employment in newly-born enterprises), the Czech Republic (66.0%), the Netherlands (63.8%), Portugal (63.5%), Poland (63.1%), Denmark (62.5%) and Belgium (61.7%). In nine Member States, the largest proportion of employment in newly-born enterprises was to be found among enterprises with 1 to 4 employees, notably in Cyprus (53.6%), the United Kingdom (52.8% – see country note) and Finland (50.0%). In Croatia (39.5%), Romania (39.2%) and Malta (32.9%), enterprises with ten or more employees represented the largest share of employment in newly-born enterprises. Overall in the EU, enterprises without any employee accounted for 46.9% of employment in newly-born enterprises, enterprises with 1 to 4 employees for 31.1%, those with 5 to 9 employees for 8.3% and enterprises with 10 or more employees for 14.3%.