In 2005 four out of five industrial enterprises (81 percent) were small firms employing less than 50 people. Small industrial firms employed almost 50,000 people, over a fifth of total industrial employment. Larger enterprises (50+ employees) employed over three-quarters of those engaged in industry and generated over 93 percent of the total turnover in industry. The vast majority of small industrial firms were Irish-owned (95 percent) while 42 percent of larger firms had foreign ownership.
In the services sector almost all enterprises (98 percent) were small. Small businesses employed more than 380,000 in 2005 accounting for more than half of total employment in the services sector. Small firms accounted for almost half (49 percent) of the total turnover in the services sector, generating a total turnover of almost €81.6 billion in 2005. There were 82,100 small enterprises in the services sector, of which almost half (47 percent) were family owned. The vast majority of these family businesses employed less than ten people.
According to the Quarterly National Household Survey there was a total of 253,200 people employed in the construction industry in the fourth quarter of 2005. Of these, 211,000 indicated that they worked in small workplaces (less than 50 employed), while 24,500 indicated that they worked in larger workplaces (50 or more persons employed). Another 17,600 did not state the size of their workplace. Of the 253,200 employed in the construction sector, over 65 percent worked for very small concerns employing less than 10 people.
While turnover and employment in industry is concentrated in medium and large enterprises, in the services sector small businesses contributed a greater share to total employment, total turnover and gross value added. The average small industrial enterprise was more than twice the size of a small enterprise in the services sector as measured by persons engaged, turnover and gross value added.
Earnings and labour costs
While average hourly earnings in the private sector were €17.48 in 2006, employees in small enterprises had hourly earnings of €15.22 compared to €19.38 for those in larger enterprises. Half of employees in small businesses earned less than €12.50 per hour. Average weekly earnings were €522.33 in small businesses compared to €718.02 in medium and large businesses. Almost 54 percent of those employed in small businesses had average hourly earnings of between €10 and €20 compared to 53 percent of employees in medium and large businesses.
The knowledge economy
Small enterprises generally make less use of more advanced information and communication technologies than larger enterprises. Almost all businesses with 10 or more persons employed were connected to the internet whereas two-thirds of enterprises with less than 10 employed used the internet.
Labour market profile
Small workplaces accounted for almost 56 percent of the workforce (1,175,800). Of these, 839,300 were employees, 216,600 were self-employed and another 107,900 were self-employed with paid employees. The figures included farming and the public sector, as well as business sectors.
Almost 58 percent of females employed in small workplaces were in low skilled non-manual or elementary occupations compared with just over 22 percent of males. Of the 316,300 non-Irish Nationals that were in employment in the second quarter of 2007, almost half (47.4 percent) worked in small enterprises.
Small, medium and large enterprises
Gross value added per employee was higher in foreign-owned than in Irish-owned enterprises in all size categories except large enterprises (250+ engaged) in the services sector. The difference in productivity measured in this way, between foreign and Irish-owned enterprises, was most pronounced for small service enterprises and for large businesses in industry.
The average wage paid by small businesses in 2006 was €32,453. Medium sized enterprises paid on average €37,464 per employee while large enterprises paid an average of €42,589 per employee. The larger the size of the firm the more likely they were to engage in a more sophisticated use of information and communications technologies. Large enterprises were more than four times as likely as small enterprises to use a dedicated ICT system to manage orders.
Almost three-quarters of manufacturing turnover in Ireland was generated by large enterprises while the EU average was 60 percent. Excluding large enterprises, small businesses accounted for two-thirds of total turnover in the services sectors in Ireland, slightly lower than the corresponding EU average of 71 percent. Gross value added per person employed in the construction sector in Ireland was significantly higher than our EU counterparts for all employment size classes in 2005.
The percentages of Irish enterprises in 2007 who reported having a website or homepage were very similar to the corresponding EU 27 levels across all the employment size classes. Almost six out of ten small Irish businesses (10-49 persons engaged) had a website. In the United Kingdom seven out of ten small businesses had a website. In Ireland almost all (96 percent) of large enterprises (250+ engaged) and 82 percent of medium sized businesses (50-249 engaged) reported having a website or homepage.