Micro-enterprises (units with 3-9 employees) are using almost exclusively defensive strategies, while only a few are attempting to expand their range of products and services or access new markets. In 2011, one in four micro-enterprises took on staff, most of whom were not highly-qualified workers. Nearly a third of micro-enterprises invested in training, with both internal and external courses.
Around a third of the units analysed introduced at least one innovation in the 2009-2011 period, in particular organisational innovations. Just under half the micro-enterprises saw internet use as unnecessary or useless for their business. Approximately one third used a web site, while a quarter used e-commerce.
This is the situation revealed by the third in-depth report on the direct survey of businesses conducted by ISTAT as part of the activities for the 9th General Census of Industry and Services. The information, relating to the total number of enterprises with fewer than 20 employees and a wide sample of enterprises with between 3 and 19 employees, was in addition to that already on statistics records, allowing for a complete survey of enterprises with at least 3 employees (approximately 1 million and 50,000).
The results of the 9th General Census of Industry and Services confirmed the characteristics of our industrial system: highly fragmented in terms of business size, and with one of the lowest average sizes in Europe. This analysis focusses our attention on enterprises with 3-9 employees (approximately 837,000), 19% of the total number of enterprises in industry and services, responsible for employing more than 23% of workers (3.8 million).
Micro-enterprises were particularly common in the services sector (around 70%), as well as real estate and professional services; moreover, they tended to provide services mainly to the regional market (63.3% against 36% of larger enterprises) and the majority were family-run (84.3% against approximately 70%).