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The CSO today published this year's annual report on Small Business in Ireland. The report presents a comprehensive picture of the contribution of small business in Ireland.

The report presents data on the contribution of small businesses in industry, services and construction, as well as statistics on labour costs, the knowledge economy and the labour force. It also includes international comparisons.

In the report, a small business is defined as an enterprise which employs less than 50 people. Statistics on medium (50-249 persons) and large (250 or more persons) enterprises are also included for comparison.

Key points from the report include:

Industry: Output and employment dominated by medium and large enterprises

  • In 2005 four out of five industrial enterprises (81%) were small firms employing less than 50 people. These firms employed 50,000 people, just over one fifth of total industrial employment.
  • Larger enterprises (50 or more persons) employed 181,100 people in 2005 and generated 93% of the total turnover in Industry.
  • The vast majority of small industrial firms were Irish-owned (95%). Almost 42% of larger firms were foreign-owned.

Services: Over 380,000 employed by small businesses in the services sector

  • In the services sector, almost all enterprises (98%) were small. There were 82,100 small businesses that employed over 380,000 people in services in 2005. This was more than half of total employment in the sector.
  • Small firms also accounted for almost half (49%) of the total turnover in the services sector, generating a total turnover of just under €81.6bn in 2005.
  • Almost half of small businesses in the services sector were family owned (47%). The vast majority of these family businesses employed less than 10 people.

Construction: Small firms employed two-thirds of all those working in the construction industry

  • According to the Quarterly National Household Survey, there were 253,200 people employed in the construction industry in the fourth quarter of 2005. Of these, 211,000 indicated that they worked in small workplaces (less than 50 employed), while 24,500 indicated that they worked in larger workplaces (50 or more persons employed). Another 17,600 did not state the number employed at their workplace.
  • Of the 253,200 employed in the construction sector, over 65% worked for very small concerns employing less tha ten people.

Earnings and Labour Costs: 54% of private sector employees in small businesses earned between €10 - €20 per hour in 2006

  • The average hourly earnings in small businesses were €15.22 in 2006 compared to €19.38 in businesses with 50 or more employed in 2006.
  • The average annual wage or salary for employees in a small business was €32,453 in 2006. The average salary in larger enterprises was €44,794 per annum.


The Knowledge Economy: Larger firms showed greater levels of e-government activity

  • Small enterprises generally make less use of more advanced Information and Communication Technology than larger enterprises.
  • Almost all businesses with 10 or more persons employed were connected to the internet whereas two-thirds of enterprises with less than 10 employed used the internet.


Size of workplace: Almost 56% of employment is in small workplaces

  • Across all sectors, 56% of employment was in workplaces where less than 50 people were employed in the second quarter of 2007. In total 1,175,800 people worked at small workplaces. Of these, 839,300 were employees, 216,600 were self-employed and 107,900 were self-employed with employees. These figures include farming and the public sector, as well as business sectors.
  • Of the 316,300 non-Irish nationals in employment in the second quarter of 2007, less than half (47%) worked in small workplaces.


EU comparison: Value added in small Irish construction firms was three times the EU average in 2005

  • Almost three-quarters of manufacturing turnover in Ireland was generated by large enterprises while the EU average was 60%.
  • In 2005, Ireland recorded GVA per person employed of €51,600 in distributive services. The EU average was €33,000 per person employed.
  • Gross value added per person employed in the construction sector in Ireland was significantly higher than the EU average for all employment size classes.


Small Business in Ireland is available on the CSO web site ( (PDF 596KB) (PDF 595KB) ‌)


For copies of the publication contact:

The Central Statistics Office, Information Section, Skehard Road, Cork
Government Publications Sales Office, Sun Alliance House, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2
Price: €10

For further information:

Carol Anne Hennessy at (021) 453 5161 or James Barrett at (021) 453 5350


09 May 2008

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