1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2017 in the UK, 4% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with employees and 5% of SMEs without employees had leadership teams where the majority of people were from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities)
  • for SME employers (those with up to 249 staff): 88% were majority led by people from the White ethnic group; 4% were majority led by people from an ethnic minority and 7% had leadership teams where ethnicity was unknown
  • for SME non-employers (those with no employees): 91% were majority led by those from the White ethnic group; 5% were majority led by those from an ethnic minority and 4% had leadership teams where ethnicity was unknown
  • England and Scotland had the highest percentage of SMEs (employer and non-employer) that were majority led by people from an ethnic minority
  • Wales had the highest percentage of SME employers that were majority led by those from the White group
  • The information and communication sector and administrative services had the highest proportion of SMEs that were majority led by people from an ethnic minority
  • over 90% of SME employers in construction, the primary sector, the professional and scientific sector, manufacturing, and retail and wholesale were majority led by people from the White ethnic group
  • nearly all (99%) of non-employer SMEs in manufacturing, and transport and storage were majority led by people from the White ethnic group
Things you need to know

The data is from the Longitudinal Small Business Survey, an annual telephone survey of UK Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are businesses with fewer than 250 employees. The survey includes a question about ethnicity of the owners or directors of the business.

The term ‘majority led’ refers to the ethnic make up of the business’s leadership team (including the owners). For example, a business is majority led by the White ethnic group if more than half of the leadership team is from the White ethnic group.

Businesses where the ethnic make up of the leadership team is not known are classed as ‘unknown’. The ethnicity of leadership teams is ‘unknown’ for 7% of UK businesses

Note that businesses that are not majority led by those from an ethnic minority may still have some leaders who are from an ethnic minority, but this is not captured in this measure.

Survey respondents are the owners, proprietors, managing directors, or senior decision makers of the business. Ethnicity may be self-reported or someone might report on behalf of the owners, for example for businesses with larger leadership teams.

What the data measures

This measure shows the percentage of UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs - businesses with fewer than 250 employees) that are majority led by people from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities), are majority led by those from the White ethnic group, or have leadership teams where ethnicity is unknown.

Businesses are classified as ‘majority led’ if 50% or more of their leadership are from that particular ethnic group.

The data is presented for SME employers (those with between one and 249 employees) and SME non-employers (those with no employees) separately.

The ethnic categories used in this data

This measure uses broad ethnic categories to enable large enough numbers for analysis.

The 2 broad ethnic groups are:

  • White – including White British and White ethnic minorities
  • Other – all other ethnic groups

2. By ethnicity and area (employers only)

Number and percentage of SME employers that are majority led by those from an ethnic minority, White ethnic group, or unknown, by UK nation
UK England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
Ethnicity % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number
Ethnic minorities (exc White minorities) 4 57,209 5 54,242 3 2,480 ~0 254 1 281
White 88 1,204,908 88 1,032,278 91 85,768 97 52,335 91 32,130
Unknown 7 101,025 8 90,277 7 6,259 3 1,535 8 2,757

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall in the UK in 2017, 4% of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) employers were majority led by those from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities), and 88% by those from the White ethnic group; the ethnicity of the leadership team was unknown for 7% of SME employers
  • SME employers that were majority led by those from an ethnic minority were more common in England (5%) and Scotland (3%) than in Northern Ireland (1%) and Wales (less than 0.5%)
  • SME employers that were majority led by those from the White ethnic group were more common in Wales (97%) than in Northern Ireland (91%), Scotland (91%) and England (88%)

3. By ethnicity and area (non-employers only)

Number and percentage of SME non-employers that are majority led by those from an ethnic minority, White ethnic group, or unknown, by UK nation
UK England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland
Ethnicity % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number
Ethnic minorities (exc White minorities) 5 226,552 6 218,165 3 4,560 0 0 1 599
White 91 3,937,813 91 3,462,822 94 236,511 95 147,166 95 91,686
Unknown 4 163,458 4 144,857 3 7,068 5 7,476 4 4,131

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall in the UK in 2017, 5% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with no employees were majority led by those from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities), and 91% by those from the White ethnic group; the ethnicity of the leadership team was unknown for 4% of SME non-employers
  • SME non-employers that were majority led by those from an ethnic minority were more common in England (6%) and Scotland (3%), than in Northern Ireland (1%) and Wales (less than 0.5%)
  • the percentage of SME non-employers that were majority led by those from the White ethnic group were similar in all UK nations (all over 90%)

4. By ethnicity and sector (employers only)

Number and percentage of SME employers that are majority led by those from an ethnic minority, White ethnic group, or unknown, by sector
Ethnic minorities (exc White minorities) White Unknown
Sector % Number % Number % Number
ABDE. Primary sector 0 0 96 57,787 4 2,690
C. Manufacturing 2 2,095 92 80,076 5 4,734
F. Construction 2 2,658 97 158,963 1 1,598
G. Retail & wholesale 5 12,049 91 218,913 4 10,287
H. Transport & storage 6 2,744 86 38,122 8 3,684
I. Accommodation & food service 6 7,234 89 116,323 5 6,769
J. Information & communication 8 6,147 88 70,160 5 3,821
KL. Financial & real estate 6 3,740 86 54,964 8 5,213
M. Professional & scientific 3 5,437 93 179,080 5 8,848
N. Administrative services 7 8,130 87 104,817 6 7,255
P. Education 4 760 73 13,772 23 4,430
Q. Human health 4 2,320 66 41,285 30 19,037
R. Arts & entertainment 6 1,477 67 16,947 27 6,721
S. Other services 4 2,418 74 50,482 23 15,669

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • when presented by sector, the percentage of SME employers where ethnicity is unknown can be very high, so meaningful conclusions cannot be made, in particular for the Education, Human health, Arts and entertainment, and Other services sectors.
  • SME employers that were majority led by those from an ethnic minority were most common in the information and communication sector (8%) and administrative services (7%); they were least common in the primary sector (0%) and construction (2%)
  • SME employers that were majority led by those from the White ethnic group were most common in construction (97%), the primary sector (96%), and the professional and scientific sector (93%), manufacturing (92%), and retail and wholesale (91%)

5. By ethnicity and sector (non-employers only)

Number and percentage of SME non-employers that are majority led by those from an ethnic minority, White ethnic group, or unknown, by sector
Ethnic minorities (exc White minorities) White Unknown
Sector % Number % Number % Number
ABDE. Primary sector 1 1,942 97 129,775 1 1,574
C. Manufacturing 0 0 99 176,682 1 1,122
F. Construction 5 44,958 93 782,812 2 15,533
G. Retail & wholesale 4 11,504 93 279,700 3 8,611
H. Transport & storage 0 0 99 297,572 1 2,826
I. Accommodation & food service 4 2,829 90 63,849 6 4,449
J. Information & communication 9 25,037 89 242,193 1 3,775
KL. Financial & real estate 4 5,960 96 127,944 0 0
M. Professional & scientific 6 36,990 93 616,580 1 7,849
N. Administrative services 11 39,963 87 310,268 2 6,971
P. Education 7 18,596 91 252,112 2 6,629
Q. Human health 3 7,918 85 255,717 12 35,473
R. Arts & entertainment 6 14,896 79 197,003 16 38,983
S. Other services 6 15,804 82 204,872 12 29,355

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • when presented by sector, the percentage of non-employer SMEs where ethnicity is unknown can be very high, so meaningful conclusions cannot be made, in particular for the Human health, Arts and entertainment, and Other services sectors.
  • SMEs with no employees that were majority led by those from an ethnic minority were most common in administrative services (11%) and information and communication sector (9%); they were least common in manufacturing (0%), transport and storage (0%), and the primary sector (1%)
  • SMEs with no employees that were majority led by those from the White ethnic group were most common in manufacturing (99%), transport and storage (99%), and the primary sector (97%)

6. Methodology

The 2017 Longitudinal Small Business Survey is a survey of 6,619 UK small business owners and managers, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The data are gathered via telephone interview, and the results are weighted by business size, UK nation and sector.

Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them reflect the 2017 BEIS Business Population Estimates and improve their accuracy.

SMEs with employees were oversampled in order to achieve sample sizes that allow meaningful analysis, so businesses with no employees were weighted more heavily to compensate. This is why SME employers and SME non-employers are presented separately.

Statistically significant differences are identified using a one sample t test.

Rounding

Figures are rounded to the nearest whole number; percentages may not add up to 100% as a result

Related publications

Small Business Survey reports

Business population estimates

Quality and methodology information

7. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The purpose of the Longitudinal Small Business Survey is to find out about the performance and behaviours of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.

Secondary source

Type of data

Administrative and survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

Business population estimates for the UK and regions provides the only official estimate of the total number of private sector businesses in the UK at the start of each year. The estimates are used extensively by government, the public, public bodies and businesses to analyse the scale, structure and significance of the total business population in the UK and to monitor change over time.

8. Download the data

Leadership of Small and Medium Enterprises - Spreadsheet (csv) 29 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, SME employer/ non-employer, UK nation, sector, value, numerator, denominator