The value that small business contributes to employment numbers in Australia is one indication of their contribution to the Australian economy. This can be measured by comparing the number of employees working in small business with employees in other business sizes and similar break downs within industries.

Table 1: Employment by business size

Size

2018-19

2019-20 

2020-21

 

('000)

%

('000)

%

('000)

%

Small Business

(0-19 Employees)

4,698

41

4,664

41

5,019

42

Medium Business

(20-199 Employees)

2,911

25

2,758

24

2,840

24

Large Business

(200+ Employees)

3,864

34

3,881

34

4,026

34

Total

11,472

100

11,303

100

11,884

100

Source: ABS Australian Industry, Table 5, May 2022 and ASBFEO calculations, private sector industry. The ABS publish this data for selected industries, which excludes financial and insurance services.

Small businesses (as defined by the ABS as those employing 0-19 employees) employed over 5 million people, which is 42% of the private sector workforce[1] in 2020-21 as shown in Table 1.

[1] Excluding financial and insurance services industry.


Chart 1: Employment by business size

Chart 6_Employment by business size

 

Source: ABS Australian Industry, Table 5, May 2022 and ASBFEO calculations, private sector industry. The ABS publish this data for selected industries, which excludes financial and insurance services.

Chart 1 shows how the pattern of employment has changed very little over the past three years.


Chart 2: Total employment by industry ranked by number of people employed by small business, 30 June 2021


Chart 7_Total employment by industry ranked by number of people employed by small business 30 June 21

Source: ABS Australian Industry, Table 5, May 2022 and ASBFEO calculations, private sector industry. The ABS publish this data for selected industries, which excludes financial and insurance services.

Chart 2 shows the industry sectors where small businesses make the greatest contribution to employment. The top three industry sectors are:


Table 2: Employment by industry, ordered by small business proportionate share – 2020-21
 

Industry Sector

Small

(‘000)

Medium

(‘000)

Large

(‘000)

All

(‘000)

Small Business share (%)

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

360

59

20

439

 82

Rental, hiring and real estate services

309

63

41

413

 75

Construction

793

247

156

1,196

 66

Other services

351

115

68

534

 66

Accommodation and food services

508

297

249

1,055

 48

Professional, scientific and technical services

571

342

287

1,200

 48

Transport, postal and warehousing

281

114

245

639

 44

Arts and recreation services

71

57

89

217

 33

Wholesale trade

180

190

198

569

 32

Retail trade

439

253

695

1,388

 32

Manufacturing

260

290

289

839

 31

Health care and social assistance (private)

431

265

750

1,446

 30

Information media and telecommunications

45

34

87

167

 27

Administrative and support services

250

296

384

930

 27

Education and training (private)

116

139

195

451

 26

Public administration and safety (private)

19

30

42

90

 21

Electricity, gas, water and waste services

18

22

82

123

 15

Mining

16

26

147

189

 8

Total selected industries

5,019

2,840

4,026

11,884

 42

Source: ABS Australian Industry, Table 5, May 2022 and ASBFEO calculations, private sector industry. The ABS publish this data for selected industries, which excludes financial and insurance services. Small businesses are those with 0-19 employees, medium businesses are those with 20-199 employees and large businesses are those with 200+ employees. Totals may not sum due to rounding.

Notably in table 2, the private sector industries most reliant on small business for employment (that is, with two thirds or more of people employed by small businesses) were:

  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing (82% of employment by small businesses)
  • Rental, hiring and real estate services (75% of employment by small businesses)
  • Construction (66% of employment by small businesses)
  • Other Services (66% of employment by small businesses).
back to the data portal