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SMEs make up 99.8% of Irish businesses

CSO has this week published a report on the make up of businesses in Ireland in 2013 and 2014. The report also includes revised figures from 2008 to 2012, which were updated following changes to the definition of "active enterprise" (more on that below). 

The report looks at the numbers of active enterprises, or businesses, and also businesses which started up or closed down, classified by economic activity, employment size, and related employment numbers.

Here are three key stats to know from the report. 

1. Over 238,000 active businesses in Ireland in 2014

There were over 238,000 private sector enterprises in Ireland in 2014, with over 1.3 million working in those businesses. This compares to over 244,000 active enterprises and over 1.5 million persons engaged in 2008.


Ireland’s largest business sector, the services sector, accounted for over half (51.3%) of all enterprises in 2014, which is above the EU average of 46.5%. The construction sector accounted for less than a fifth (19.9%) of businesses. In 2008, the services sector accounted for less than half (46.7%) while construction accounted for over a quarter (25.3%) of all enterprises. 

A similar pattern emerges in terms of which sectors people are working within the private sector. In 2014, the services sector accounted for 44.3% of all persons engaged while in 2008 it accounted for 40%. Construction accounted for 7.5% of all persons engaged in 2014, down from 12.6% in 2008.

2. SMEs make up 99.8% of Irish businesses


Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) accounted for 99.8% of the total enterprise population for 2014. This remains unchanged from the 2008 figure. They also accounted for nearly 69% of total persons engaged, a slight drop from 71% in 2008.

Despite accounting for only a small fraction (0.2%) of total enterprise numbers, large enterprises employing 250 or more persons employed over 31% of people working in the private sectorLarge enterprises also accounted for 0.2% in 2008, employing around 29%. 

3. 16,257 new businesses started in 2014


There were 16,257 new enterprises started in 2014, an increase of nearly 18% on 2013, with 19,159 working in these businesses. In 2008, 15,423 new businesses were started, with a slightly higher number of persons working (20,982) in these new businesses. 

The number of new businesses in construction increased from 2,473 in 2013 to 3,526 in 2014. 

There was a 30.8% decrease in the number of new enterprises in the Mining and Quarrying sector between 2013 and 2014, a sector with relatively low enterprise numbers (411 active enterprises in 2014 including 18 new businesses).

Why were the 2008 - 2012 figures revised?

The Business Demography series 2008 - 2012 has been revised due to a change in the definition of "active enterprise". Now, an "active enterprise" is one which "in a certain period it generates turnover, employs staff or makes investments in the period".

Previously, an active enterprise was one which paid VAT, had employees, filed a Corporation Tax return or filed an Income Tax return for the reference year. However, this led to some enterprises being counted as active when they were not, and some enterprises not being counted when they should have been.

For more information

See CSO's Business Demography report to find out more.