Research highlights thriving small-business landscape

A new research report suggests a thriving small-business landscape in Australia, with one out of every six workers actually owning a small business.

The Xero Boss Insights 2020 report reveals that there were 2.2 million business owners in Australia in late 2019, 700,000 more than the figure reported in 1991. The majority of these business owners own small businesses, the report noted, with 1.4 million registered as sole traders and more than 600,000 being micro-business owners who employ up to four staff.

The entrepreneurial nation

“The Xero Boss Insights 2020 report for the first time shines a light on the entrepreneurial spirit of the nation,” Trent Innes, Managing Director, Xero Australia and Asia said. “It provides a roadmap for anyone who has been thinking of striking out on their own, and showcases who the nation’s business owners are, where they are based and what they do.

“While the data featured in the report precedes the devastating bushfires that have impacted many regions, it gives invaluable long term insights into not only the central role small businesses play in the social and economic fabric of our country; but also their resilience and ability to adapt,” Innes added.

“What I have discovered from the study is the relentless energy and determination of the Australian people, in all parts of the continent, to build a business and to thrive,” Bernard Salt, demographer and the report’s author, said. “Not all businesses survive but there is no shortage of Australians putting their hand up in pursuit of what is perhaps the ultimate Australian dream, the quite ennobling ideal of being your own boss.”

Female founders leading the way

The report reveales that two-thirds of net new businesses created in Australia in the past decade were founded by women. While men still outnumber women in business ownership across the board, the gap is closing.

The research also highlights the nationalities driving entrepreneurialism in Australia. Almost 15 per cent of migrant workers are their own boss, which is slightly higher than Australian-born residents at 14.3 per cent. These entrepreneurial migrants largely hail from the Middle East, with Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus among the top five rankings for business ownership by country of birth.

“Australians have always had an entrepreneurial mindset,” Innes said. “What’s clear from the research is that Australians from all walks of life have the drive to start their own business. It also reinforces the big role small business plays in ensuring the health of our nation’s economy. To maintain Australia’s average rate of employment.”

While the report does not contain data analysing the impact of the recent bushfires, it shows that in the past, businesses in regional communities emerged as the most resilient, with almost half (46 per cent) of those formed in 2015 survive to 2018.

“What the report shows us is that across many years small businesses have been the lifeblood of the country. Small businesses, often family-owned and run, are at the heart of regional communities,” Innes commented. “Based on past experience we can hope that people will come together to help those affected to rebuild and recover.”

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