One of the questions we are most frequently asked at Company Bug is “how many limited companies are there in the UK”, or similar questions relating to the business population as a whole
How many small businesses are there?
According to the latest statistics from the House of Commons Business Statistics, there are around 6m SME’s operating in the UK in 2020.
According to the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses), These businesses employ over 16.8 million people and contribute a turn over of £2.3 trillion to the UK economy.
A massive 99.3% of all enterprises are defined as SME’s (Small/Medium Enterprises) SME’s are defined by the number of people they employ, which can be anywhere between 0-249 people.
How many limited companies are there?
There were around 3.5 million sole proprietorships (59%) in the UK at the start of 2019, 414,000 partnerships (7%), and 2 million limited companies (34%).
Out of the 2 million actively trading limited companies in the UK (2020), around 990,000 were employers, whereas 891,000 companies were not. Therefore, just over half of limited companies are employers and just under a half are one-man-band businesses.
Unlike sole traders, it is much easier to pinpoint precise numbers of limited companies, as the relevant data is captured centrally at Companies House.
Breakdown by region
Although the number of limited companies/businesses established in each region will obviously vary according to population density.
London and south-east England has the most businesses compared to the rest of the country. London is home to 1.1 million businesses. The south-east came a close second with just under a million (932,000) businesses.
The lowest proportion of enterprises is in the North East, which has 163,000 private sector businesses.
By country, the breakdown is as follows: England (5.2 million), Northern Ireland (124,000), Wales (222,000) and Scotland (334,000).
Many Company Bug readers are in the professional business sector, typically working via their own limited companies.
The industry with the most of the SMEs in the UK is construction, with nearly one fifth (approx 1 million) businesses being in the construction sector. The share of businesses in the ‘Wholesale and Retail Trade and Repair’ sector came second with 14% of businesses being in the sector in the country as a whole.
You can access the most up-to-date release of the business population estimates from GOV.UK here.