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Online statistics

The present feature contains statistical data that are not published in a printed form but also supplements to existing statistical data.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

Statistics on small and medium-sized enterprises invariably receive a great deal of attention and are given prominent coverage by the media.

Seeing that the NSSO (National Social Security Office) collects data on all private sector employers of personnel (independent concerns operating without employees that, de facto, ought to be counted as part of the SMEs hence remain unknown factors, although some of these are registered with National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE)), its Office has access to a well nigh inexhaustible source of information from which to garner and publish data about the SMEs.
The graphs presented here are actually based on the data files of the NSSO.

In order to be counted an SME, a business needs to meet a number of criteria in terms of its employment and turn-over figures. Since the NSSO provides only information about employment, these statistics therefore make use of only this criterion for the delineation of the target group.

As a general rule, in Belgium a small business is considered an SME if it employs fewer than 50 employees. A medium-sized enterprise is a firm that employs fewer than 250 employees. The European Union does not draw a distinction between small and medium-sized enterprises but it too puts the limit at 250 employees.

The NSSO classification by size does draw a limit at fewer than 50 employees but there is no such limit at 250; hence we are using here the nearest limit, namely fewer than 200 employees.
A very important criterion in a federal nation such as Belgium is obviously the distribution by region. The geographic distribution is based on the head office of the company (the principal administrative/operating seat – employing the largest number of people). This implies that all of a company’s personnel are allocated to this head office, even though people may not necessarily be at work there. Hence the true situation may well be distorted, but since we here are taking a look at SMEs, this is for our purposes a rather minor point (The decentralized statistics per place of employment cannot be used here since, for instance, also local affiliates of major coporations (branch offices of a major bank, as an example) would in that way be considered to be SMEs, which is ostensibly not the case (see also the introductory text in the relevant brochure in casu)).

Hence, with the statistics as we are presenting them here, the following points have to be taken into consideration:

  1. Independent concerns operating without personnel are not included;
  2. The limit lies at 49-50 and 199-200 rather than at 50-51 and 200-201, and it concerns a tally of the employment at the close of the quarter;
  3. The allocation to a region does not always reflect the geographic reality with respect to employment;
  4. The demarcation of the private sector is the one that is commonly used by the NSSO (see also the FAQ).

The following graphs are presented, each time for the second and the fourth quarters as of 2005 (in French - in Dutch):

  • The number of employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in absolute figures) per region.
  • The number of employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).
  • The number of employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in absolute figures) per region.
  • The number of employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).
  • The number of jobs (at the close of the quarter) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in absolute figures) per region of the employer.
  • The number of jobs (at the close of the quarter) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).
  • The number of jobs (at the close of the quarter) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in absolute figures) per region of the employer.
  • The number of jobs (at the close of the quarter) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).
  • The generated employment volume in full-time equivalents (VTE) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in absolute figures) per region of the employer.
  • The generated employment volume in full-time equivalents (VTE) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 50 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).
  • The generated employment volume in full-time equivalents (VTE) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in absolute figures) per region of the employer.
  • The generated employment volume in full-time equivalents (VTE) with employers in the private sector employing fewer than 200 employees (in relative percentage vis-à-vis the total complement of employers in the private sector in the region in casu).

An examination of the figures shows that 99% of Belgian enterprises – according to the European classification guidelines – ought to be considered as SMEs, which actually makes the criterion rather less than pertinent for our nation.

In addition, the relative lower share of the “Brussels” SMEs vis-à-vis the other regions can be explained by the greater presence of major corporations in this region.

And, finally, the figures might conceivably be influenced by events in the “life” of the enterprises (mergers, splitting off, takeovers and acquisitions, creation of affiliates, widespread lay-offs, …).

These phenomena can all interfere to muddle the picture of the dynamics at work in certain given categories of enterprises.

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