SME employment growth three times faster than larger businesses


UK SMEs have created three times more jobs over the past five years than larger businesses, according to the latest ONS data.

While firms employing more than 250 staff added around 650,000 net jobs over the five years from 2013 to 2017, those employing less than 250 added 1.7 million  – underscoring just how central SMEs are to the health of the UK economy and the country’s current record high employment levels.

While larger businesses continue to employ more people in absolute terms – 16.47 million people versus 13.96 million for SMEs – Santander’s analysis suggests SMEs will overtake larger businesses as primary employers by 2030 if the five-year growth trend continues at the same pace.

Sue Douthwaite, Managing Director of Santander Business said: “While there are many great roles available working for large companies across the UK, SMEs remain the life blood of the UK economy. There is strong demand from SMEs for staff and we would encourage people to look at the fantastic career opportunities that may be open to them outside of larger firms. As a bank focused on bringing much-needed competition to SME banking, we are supporting thriving SMEs every day who are hiring for brilliant roles across all regions of the UK.”

Speaking about the findings, small business expert, Richard Alvin said:”The findings of this survey shows that the UK really is turning into a nation of small businesses enabled by co-working spaces and technical advancements allowing them to be nimble, fast to react and gain market share against larger companies”.

Opportunities with SMEs are also growing fastest outside London. Between 2016 and 2017, the West Midlands and East of England saw the greatest increase in number of SMEs of any UK region. In the East of England there were 8,400 new SMEs set up over the past 12 months while in the West Midlands, 6,900 new SMEs were founded over the same timeframe, equating to a 6.4% increase in both cases.

A quarter of young people said they plan to search for job roles in the capital, despite London being home to only 15 per cent of the UK’s jobs.

Greater Manchester is second in popularity, with one in 12 wishing to live there after leaving education, while Birmingham completes the top three, even though they account for only 4 per cent and 2 per cent of the nation’s jobs respectively.