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

It includes information on the number of businesses since 2000, 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.

In 2020, there were 6.0 million businesses in the UK, 112,700 more than in 2019. 

Businesses by size

Over 99% of businesses are Small or Medium Sized businesses – employing 0-249 people.

5.7 million (96%) businesses were micro-businesses – employing 0-9 people. Micro-businesses accounted for 33% of employment and 21% 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 1.1 million businesses in London, the most of any region or country in the UK.

London also had the highest number of businesses per head: 1,593. There were 744 businesses per head in the North East of England. In the UK as a whole there were 1,105 businesses per head.

Businesses by industry

The service industries accounted for 75% of businesses, 79% of employment and 71% of turnover. The retail industry accounted for 35% of turnover, but only 9% of businesses.

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

Business births and deaths

In 2019, there were 390,000 business births and 336,000 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 2019, 15% of SMEs employers were led by women; the proportion of female leaders is higher for SMEs with no employees was 17%.

In 2019, 32% of FTSE100 board seas were occupied by women. There were no all-male boards in the FTSE100.

Businesses owned by members of ethnic minorities

In 2019, 5% of SME employers were owned or led by people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Businesses led by people from ethnic minority backgrounds were most likely in the health sector and information and communication sectors (both 8%) and in the retail and wholesale and finance and real estate sectors sector (both 7%).

The most likely ethnicity of businesses owners in the UK was Indian, accounting for 32% of ethnic minority led or owned businesses.

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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