The figures are publicly available. Yet almost no one knows them, because the media and associations tend to keep quiet about these figures. I searched in vain for descriptive graphics that provide information on the composition of industry by company size class. Then I compiled them myself from the figures in the 2019 Statistical Yearbook. They reflect the situation in 2018.
I myself was surprised to see that in fact 50% of the 46,900 industrial companies in Germany employ fewer than 50 people. If you include all companies with up to 499 employees, the figure is as high as 96%. A full 697 companies, or 1.4%, have more than 1,000 employees, and on average these large companies have 2,782 employees.
Why on earth do we only ever hear about this tiny minority? Because they make the most profit and can afford the most expensive lobby? That’s actually the case. A large company has an average turnover of 1.2 billion euros, while one of the more than 23,000 small companies has a turnover of 5 million euros. But what share the products and the highly specialized work of the SMEs have in the great values that the corporations create is something that even the Federal Statistical Office does not reveal.
The graphs shed light on the special situation of German industry. It will look similar throughout the German-speaking countries. Germany as an industrial location thrives on this enormous number of small and medium-sized companies. Not only because of the many jobs that continue to be found here, while all Western industrial nations, with the exception of Japan, no longer have even half as many people employed in industry as we do. Also because of the flexibility and decisiveness that small and medium-sized companies have. And that is exactly what we will urgently need in the coming years as industry makes the leap into the digital age.
The big players are now almost all run by salaried managers who are more or less indifferent to what becomes of the product, workforce and company. The quarterly result and the good mood of investors are everything to them. If it serves their career, they go wherever. After them, the deluge. In contrast, the vast majority of SMEs are still family-owned and run by founders and their descendants. This is true of 84% of all industrial companies, according to a study by the BDI in March 2013. The difference: these entrepreneurs do very much care what becomes of the companies and employees, how the business develops.
It’s time that this vast majority of industry was given a voice. One that will then also be heard by the associations and in politics. To this end, a Digital Industry Circle is currently in the making, which aims to support this industry in its digitalization. More on this soon on this page and very soon on one of the new circle’s own.
Feedback highly welcome!
I am happy about every comment, about every feedback (also about a contact mail), and especially of course about interest in the circle to be founded.