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Small and medium-sized enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined by the European Commission as having less than 250 employees. SMEs are the backbone of Europe's economy. They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. In the past five years, they have created around 85% of new jobs and provided two-thirds of the total private sector employment in the EU. The European Commission considers SMEs and entrepreneurship as key to ensuring economic growth, innovation, job creation, and social integration in the EU. The European Commission policy in relation to SMEs supports start-ups and scale-ups in particular. Internationalisation beyond the EU increases SMEs' performance, enhances competitiveness, and reinforces sustainable growth.


Recent updates

EU context

Eurofound’s work on small and medium-sized enterprises links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on promoting our European way of life. 

Key outputs


Megatrends, such as digitalisation, globalisation, demographic change and climate change, are transforming the world of work, with knock-on effects for working conditions and job quality. Against this background, this report...

5 november 2020
Research report

This study examines the interaction between social dialogue practices and human resources management (HRM) policies in European multinational companies (MNCs). It looks at the changing role of HRM and its...

16 juni 2020
Research report

Eurofound expert(s)

​Stavroula Demetriades

Stavroula Demetriades is a senior research manager in the Employment unit at Eurofound. She has responsibility for research in the areas of innovation, management practices, hybrid...

Senior research manager,
Employment research unit

Franz Eiffe is a research manager in the Working Life unit at Eurofound. He is involved in projects on sustainable work, quantitative analyses and upward convergence in the EU, as...

Research manager,
Working life research unit
Publications results (57)

Mänskliga resurser bidrar genom kompetens till att en organisation blir framgångsrik. Enligt modellen för kompetens, motivation och möjligheter (AMO, Ability, Motivation, Opportunities) beror arbetstagarnas bidrag till organisationens resultat på deras kompetens och motivation att utnyttja denna och

30 March 2023

Rapportens syfte är att ge europeiska företag stöd med att hantera utmaningarna med covid-19-pandemin. Fokus ligger på rutiner och förhållanden på arbetsplatser som har hjälpt företag i hela EU utveckla operativ motståndskraft samtidigt som säkerheten för anställda och kunder har bevarats. Rapporten

09 December 2021

The economic and labour market contribution of international businesses is well recognised, but policymakers could do more to help such enterprises to develop their activities. This policy brief explores the workplace practices in export-oriented establishments that may contribute to their success

06 October 2021

The EU has long supported innovation in business and in workplaces. The challenges facing Europe as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis make the need for innovation more urgent. The NextGenerationEU recovery package requires a reorientation of business activities towards innovation for resilience

01 July 2021

Megatrends, such as digitalisation, globalisation, demographic change and climate change, are transforming the world of work, with knock-on effects for working conditions and job quality. Against this background, this report examines working conditions and job quality from a sectoral perspective

05 November 2020

This study examines the interaction between social dialogue practices and human resources management (HRM) policies in European multinational companies (MNCs). It looks at the changing role of HRM and its interaction with European Works Councils (EWCs), which can act as a link between different

16 June 2020

Innovation and technological advancement are natural features of developed economies, and they are necessary to maintain and improve sustainable competitiveness in an era of globalisation. However, while most innovation tends to be incremental, some has a disruptive effect on production and service

22 January 2020

Cooperatives and social enterprises are recognised for their resilience to cyclical and structural economic changes and their capacity to contribute to local and regional economic development, including social inclusion. In recent years, attention has increasingly focused on their ability to further

12 June 2019

Reshoring – namely the relocation of value chain activities back to the home country or its nearby region – has attracted an increasing interest both among scholars and policymakers. The European Reshoring Monitor is a collaborative project between Eurofound and a consortium of Italian universities

01 April 2019

This report explores the motivations, opportunities and challenges of born globals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in integrating and managing their global value chains (GVCs). The study also investigates the role of selected policy measures in supporting SME internationalisation, incl

14 December 2018

Online resources results (25)

Policies to support EU companies affected by the war in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine has intensified, the cost of food, raw materials and energy prices, already high due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has continued to rise substantially. Ahead of coordinated action at EU level, as agreed by EU energy ministers on 9 September 2022, governments across the EU have

Latvia: Social security implications of favourable tax rate for small businesses

The social partners reacted differently to the government's plans to increase the rate of the special tax for microenterprises, the unions concerned over the lower social protection afforded the workers and employers worried about losing competitiveness due to increased labour costs. In the end, the

United Kingdom: Small Business Act becomes law

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 puts an end to the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts.

Project promotes innovation and employee participation in SMEs

In June 2001, Portugal's Institute for Innovation in Training (INOFOR) assessed a project it had been running on "Paths to innovation", which sought to promote organisational innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Such innovation is thought to be rare in Portugal. Notable points

Social partners highlight competitiveness and development issues

According to a survey published in March 2001 by the Confindustria employers' confederation, the innovative capacity of small firms in Italy is being hampered by factors such as the rigidity of the labour market, the lack of skilled labour, and a high tax burden. Meanwhile, at a May 2001 conference

2001 Territorial Employment Pact agreed for Vienna

Since the mid-1990s, the city council, the Labour Market Service (Arbeitsmarktservice, AMS) and social partner organisations have been cooperating to improve the employment situation in Vienna, which had been relatively poor for some years. In the late 1990s, these efforts were translated into a

Forced labour compensation scheme faces difficulties

In July 2000, the German parliament passed legislation to provide compensation for those involved in slave and forced labour during the Nazi period. As the result of lengthy negotiations between the governments of the USA, Germany and several eastern European countries, along with representatives of

Union unite against employers' proposals on supplementary pensions

The "industrial relations overhaul" project initiated by France's MEDEF employers' confederation in early 2000 has given rise to a protest movement involving all trade unions in early 2001, including a day of demonstrations on 25 January. At the root of this protest are MEDEF's proposals on

The state of trade unionism

Trade unions originally developed in Ireland in response to the spread of industrialisation. Many employers in the early factories used authoritarian methods and working conditions were often extremely poor. Individual workers were unable to resist this exploitation, so they organised collectively

Third National Agreement on Continuing Training signed

In December 2000, Spain's main employers' organisations and trade unions signed the third National Agreement on Continuing Training (ANFC). Like its predecessors, the agreement provides for the extensive involvement of the social partners in managing all levels of the continuing training system. An

Blogs results (3)

As we leave behind the lockdowns and business disruptions of COVID-19 and enter a ‘new normal’, it is time to talk about how workplaces might be transformed to drive innovation. Some may baulk at this suggestion, as we continue to grapple with the pandemic fallout, but crises have always been a

28 juni 2021

Much of the discussion on the future of work is focused on globalisation and technology, and their impacts on the labour market. However, there is also a growing interest in the business models used by cooperatives and social enterprises, and how they can contribute to a better future of work

15 november 2019

Europe has gone through significant economic change over the past decade. Businesses have had to manage the challenges posed by the financial crisis, globalisation and a rapidly changing labour market. Eurofound's new report Win-win arrangements: Innovative measures through social dialogue at

3 oktober 2016


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