Archive:Access to finance

This Statistics Explained article is outdated and has been archived - for recent articles on structural business statistics see here.

This article presents the collection, uses and availability of statistics on access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union (EU).


Affordable and appropriate access to finance is an important issue not only for newly-starting and growing companies, but also existing ones who wish to expand their operations. It is thus significant for all businesses who strive to gain productivity, foster innovation, and hence create employment and wealth for wider national and international benefit.

Access to finance is crucial especially for small and medium-size firms, due to their large share in terms of number of enterprises, turnover and employment in the business economy. In recent years some evidence has shown that lenders tended to shy away from financing these enterprises because of the nature of their assets.

To shed light on these issues Eurostat, in consultation with its users for business statistics, the OECD, EIF and the ECB, organised a business survey to obtain information on the access to various types and sources of finance of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The purpose of this survey was to examine where there may be constraints on the availability of finance, and how those may be changing; the need for finance (loans, equity and other) in the future, for example to promote growth, and the sources from which businesses would wish to obtain this finance, and an outlook on barriers to business growth in the future.

The purpose of the survey was to:

  • examine where there may be constraints as regards the availability of finance, and how those may be changing;
  • provide evidence on the need for finance (loans, equity and other) in the future, for example to promote growth;
  • identify the sources from which businesses would wish to obtain this finance;
  • obtain business leaders' perceptions where they see development constraints in the years to come.

The results give information on important financing issues such as development of finance need, range of finance types and sources sought, success rates in obtaining finance, reasons for choosing a particular financial institution, reasons for lack of success in obtaining finance, envisaged finance sources in the future, and the most important factor limiting business growth.

Main findings

Data broken down by NACE and by type of firm (high-growth versus gazelle versus other SMEs) show that

  • more than half of surveyed companies did not seek finance of any type in 2007 and 2010, although a significant increase of finance need is perceived for the next three years;
  • loans remain the most requested finance type for the whole period 2007-2013;
  • success rate in obtaining finance severely decreased when comparing 2010 to 2007, indicating a credit crunch;
  • reasons given for partial success or failure to obtain loans diverge: lack of own capital of loan seekers according to banks, too steep interest rates according to loan seekers themselves;
  • ‘being already a client’ was the main reported reason for choosing a particular bank for a loan in both 2007 and 2010;
  • need of a guarantee in obtaining loan finance is rare;
  • 35 % of all surveyed companies considered the financial situation of the business unchanged between 2007 and 2010, yet success rates for finance sought severely declined;
  • banks remain the most envisaged finance source for the period 2011-2013;
  • companies cite the general economic outlook as the most likely factor limiting business growth between 2011 and 2013 – despite an optimistic view on future access to finance.

Data collection

The Eurostat survey on access to finance was conducted in 2010 and comprised a sample of about 25 000 enterprises in the 20 participating countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The survey covered small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of employment (with 10 to 249 persons employed).

Information was collected for two significant observation moments:

  • 2007 - considered a reference point before the financial crisis;
  • 2010 – considered a year signalling the end of the financial crisis, at least in some Member States.

Data about the perception of finance need, envisaged finance types and sources, purpose of the finance and potential obstacles to business growth was also compiled for the coming three years (period from 2011 to 2013).

The target population for the survey was the population of enterprises that fits all of the following characteristics:

  • classified to NACE Rev 2 codes B to N, but not to code K (financial services);
  • independent, i.e., not a subsidiary of another business, either in the same Member State or foreign;
  • has existed at least since 2005;
  • had between 10 and 249 persons employed in 2005;
  • active in 2008;
  • has at least 10 persons employed at the reference period in 2010 – there is thus an inherent bias on surviving firms.

See also

Further Eurostat information



Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Regulation 97/2009 of 2 February 2009 implementing Regulation 295/2008 concerning structural business statistics, as regards the use of the flexible module
  • Regulation 295/2008 of 11 March 2008 concerning structural business statistics

External links

Data on access to finance
Enterprise finance index