SME employment grows three times more than big businessThe UK’s small and medium-sized businesses have created three times more jobs over the past five years than larger businesses, according to new analysis of the latest ONS data1*.

While firms employing more than 250 staff added around 650,000 net jobs over the five years from 2013 to 2017 (a four per cent increase), those employing less than 250 added 1.7 million (a 14 per cent increase) – 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 – the analysis suggests SMEs will overtake larger businesses as primary employers by 2030 if the five-year growth trend continues at the same pace.

However,  a separate research has found that significant numbers of young people are failing to recognise the significant job opportunities that SMEs offer*. Just a third (35 per cent) of Generation Z and Millennials leaving full time education say they wish to work for an SME, while an even smaller proportion, just one in six (18 per cent), want to work for a start-up or micro business.

In contrast, the most popular career aspirations are to work for a large firm (51 per cent), the public sector (51 per cent) or a global multinational (49 per cent). This is despite nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of Generation Z and Millennials, equal to around five million young adults in the UK, saying they are concerned about their career opportunities on leaving full time education – suggesting that many are potentially discounting the role that SMEs play in the economy.

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.

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 6.4per cent increase in both cases.

A quarter of young people (24 per cent) 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 (eight per cent) wishing to live there after leaving education, while Birmingham (seven per cent) completes the top three, even though they account for only four per cent and two per cent of the nation’s jobs respectively. The research also found that the majority (70 per cent) of SMEs are actively recruiting for entry level roles, whether that be graduates (43 per cent), further education leavers (36 per cent) or school leavers (35 per cent).

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said:

With record numbers of people in work, it’s clear that small and medium sized businesses have been integral to creating our strongest jobs market in decades. Employment has risen in all regions of the UK since 2010, and with new business growth fastest in places like the West Midlands – SMEs are having a huge impact on revitalising local economies. The Department for Work and Pensions New Enterprise Allowance scheme supports new business owners to develop their ideas and businesses and so far over 200,000 have taken advantage of this support.


*analysis commissioned by Santander Business Banking

*research2, also commissioned by Santander Business Banking 






Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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