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This note presents a statistical analysis of businesses in the UK.

It includes information on the number of businesses since 2000, the impact of Covid-19 on business numbers, small businesses, business by region, businesses by industry, and business births and deaths. There are also statistics on female participation in businesses, and business ownership by people from ethnic minority backgrounds. It also features some discussion of the sources of business statistics.

Businesses by size

As of 1 January 2021, there were 5.6 million private sector businesses in the UK, 6.5% fewer than in 2020. This was the largest fall in business population since the series began in 2000. The decline was largely of businesses with no employees, the largest category of UK businesses. 

75% of UK businesses had no employees in 2021; over 99% of businesses are Small or Medium Sized businesses – employing 0-249 people.

5.3 million (95%) businesses were micro-businesses, employing 0-9 people. Micro-businesses accounted for 21% of employment and 14% of turnover.

There were only 8,000 large businesses in the UK (employing over 250 people), but these businesses accounted for 39% of employment and 48% of turnover.

Businesses by region

In 2020, there were 1.0 million businesses in London, the most of any region or country in the UK. Combined, London and the South East of England accounted for just over a third of UK businesses.

London also had the highest number of businesses per head: 1,460. There were 700 businesses per head in the North East of England. In the UK as a whole there were 1,029 businesses per head.

Businesses by industry

The service industries accounted for 76% of businesses, 79% of employment and 72% of turnover. The retail industry accounted for 35% of turnover, but only 10% of businesses.

The manufacturing sector accounted for 5% of businesses, 10% of employment and 14% of turnover.

Business births and deaths

In 2020, there were 390,000 business births and 316,000 business deaths.

The business birth rate (the number of business births as a proportion of active businesses) was 13%. The business death rate (the number of businesses deaths as a proportion of active businesses was 11%).

Female involvement in business

In 2020, 16% of SMEs employers were led by women; 21% of SMEs with no employees were led by women.

In 2020, 38% of FTSE100 directorships were occupied by women. There were no all-male boards in the FTSE100.

Businesses owned by members of minority ethnic groups

In 2020, 6% of SME employers were minority ethnic group (MEG) led, while 6% of SMEs with no employees were MEG-led. MEG-led SME employers were most likely in the accommodation and information and communication sectors; MEG-led SMEs with no employees were most likely to be in the information and communication and health sectors.

Businesses by constituency

The number of businesses in each Parliamentary constituency is available in the spreadsheet accompanying this briefing paper. The spreadsheet also includes a drop-down showing the number and proportion of SMEs by constituency.


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