98.9% of enterprises in the EU had fewer than 49 persons employed


In 2017, an overwhelming majority (98.9%) of enterprises in the European Union’s non-financial business economy were enterprises with fewer than 49 persons employed (small enterprises), followed by medium enterprises (50-249 persons employed) with 0.9% of all enterprises, Eurostat data shows.

In contrast, just 0.2% of all enterprises had 250 or more persons employed and were therefore classified as large enterprises.

In 2017, there were 22.2 million SMEs in the EU’s nonfinancial business economy, contributing to over half of total value added (56%, EUR 3.5 billion).

SMEs employed 83.9 million people in 2017, accounting for 67% of all employed. Over half of them were employed in three economic activities: distributive trades sector (20.7 million people, 27% of small enterprises’ and 19% of medium-sized enterprises’ employment), manufacturing (15.8 million people, 14% and 33%) and construction (10.2 million, 14% and 7%).

Among EU Member States with available data, the share of people employed by small enterprises was highest in Portugal, where small enterprises employed 61% of all the employed, closely followed by Spain (58%), Latvia and Estonia (both 57%) as well as Slovakia (56%).

Medium-sized enterprises employed the highest shares of people in Luxembourg (25%), closely followed by Lithuania (23%), Estonia and Latvia (both 22%).

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