Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Background Notes

Open in Excel:


The Business Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs in 2020 Survey was collected to measure and report on key features of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on small and medium enterprises in Ireland in 2020. A Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) is an enterprise having 1-249 persons engaged.

The survey was conducted online. The release examines the calendar year 2020. The initial base population of enterprises in this release comprises enterprises with between 1 and 249 persons engaged from within the NACE Rev. 2 Sectors 05-82 and 90-96 (see more details on NACE sectors below) which were active on the 2019 Central Business Register. A sample was drawn from this population.

Statistical Confidentiality

The survey was collected from enterprises on a voluntary basis under Section 24 of the Statistics Act, 1993.

The information collected in the survey is confidential under the Statistics Act and will only be used by the Central Statistics Office for the compilation of aggregate statistics. The CSO has checked the statistical outputs of the survey to ensure that tables do not disclose details of any company. The raw data will not be shared with any other organisations.

The CSO would like to thank businesses that responded to the Business Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs in 2020 Survey.


The reporting statistical unit for the survey is the enterprise. The sample size for the BICS is 8,000 enterprises. The enterprise is defined as the smallest combination of legal units that is an organisational unit producing goods and/or services, which benefits from a certain degree of autonomy in decision-making.

The sample was stratified by NACE sector and size class, with the four size classes described below. The survey was conducted online, and the sample size was approximately 8,000 enterprises. It is important to note that the results of the survey apply to respondents only, and that no imputation or estimation procedures have been used in the case of non-response. Therefore, as the results of the survey are unweighted, they may only reflect the characteristics of those who have responded. Due to the low response rate (24%) by businesses to this survey, the feasible breakdown of results is very limited. The distribution of respondents was not evenly spread across the size classes and micro enterprises are more strongly represented compared to other size classes. The sectors of economic activity included in the survey were determined in accordance with the NACE Rev. 2 classification scheme, which is the European Commission’s classification system for economic activity. The NACE Rev. 2 sectors included in the survey were as follows:

Section B - Mining & Quarrying (05 - 09)

Section C - Manufacturing (10 - 33)

Section D - Electricity, Gas, Steam & Air Conditioning Supply (35)

Section E - Water Supply; Sewerage, Waste Management & Remediation Activities (36 - 39)

Section F - Construction (41 - 43)

Section G - Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (45 - 47)

Section H - Transporting and storage (49 -53)

Section I - Accommodation and food service activities (55 -56)

Section J - Information and communication (58 - 63)

Section K - Financial and insurance activities (64 -66)

Section L - Real estate activities (68)

Section M - Professional, scientific and technical activities (39 -75)

Section N - Administrative and support service activities (77 - 82)

Section R - Arts, entertainment and recreation (90 - 93)

Section S - Other services activities (94 - 96)

For further information on the NACE Rev. 2 classification scheme, please see Classifications.

Data Collection and Questionnaire

The survey is collected via an online questionnaire . The topics covered are about how the COVID-19 crisis has affected business and what steps have been taken as a result – e.g. in relation to the level of business, workforce and organisational changes, access to finance, and availing of Government support schemes.

Output Classifications - Definitions

Size Class

For the BICS, the size class of an enterprise is determined by the number of persons engaged associated with the enterprise as follows:

Size Class  Number of Persons Engaged
Micro a  1 - 2
Micro b  3 - 9
Small  10 - 49
Medium  50 - 249
SMEs  0 - 249
Large  250+

A Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) is an amalgamation of the Micro, Small and Medium categories, i.e. having 0-249 persons engaged.


In the above results, there are cases where several NACE Rev. 2 categories are presented in aggregate form as follows:

Sector    NACE Rev. 2 Category
Industry  B-E
Construction    F
Wholesale and Retail Trade  G
Services  H-N, R-S
Finance and Administration  K, L, N
Professional and IT  J, M

Other Breakdowns 

Many of the breakdowns in this release are based on the enterprise’s own best estimate at a point in time. The qualitative nature of these breakdowns has been chosen to limit burden on respondents.

Go to next chapter >>> Contact Details