Number of economic units up last year

Katrin Aasmäe, Svetlana Šutova

In 2017, there were approximately 158,000 economically active units. 3,000 units were added, which is as many as in 2016. Considering legal form, the picture looks different – growth in the number of companies picked up and the number of non-profit associations decreased for the first time.

Two thirds of economically active units were companies (66%), sole proprietors accounted for 15%. Non-profit associations constituted 17% of all economically active units. Similarly to previous years, state and local government institutions accounted for less than 2%.

In total, there were 127,622 economically active enterprises (companies and sole proprietors), with companies numbering 103,500. In 2017, the number of companies increased by approximately 8,000, i.e. around 3,000 more units were added compared to 2016. As usual, the number of private limited companies grew – over 8,000 were added. The number of public limited companies declined again by more than 100 units. The number of active sole proprietors continues to decrease. In 2017, there were around 1,000 sole proprietors less – their number fell to 24,000.

The number of non-profit institutions declined by approximately 4,000 units, totalling slightly over 30,000 in 2017. The decrease resulted from decline in the number of non-profit associations, and the main reason for the latter was a change in the methodology for determining activitya.

The number of government and local government institutions stayed almost the same. The administrative reform at the end of 2017 did not have a major impact on the population of economic units that were active during the year, because it also includes units that were active for only a part of the year. The impact will become obvious in the 2018 data, which will not include local government institutions that ceased activity in connection with the reform.

As in previous years, more than a half (56%) of enterprises (71,000) are located in Harju county, most of them (78% of all Harju county enterprises) in Tallinn. Year on year, over 5,000 enterprises were added in Harju county, 4,000 of these in Tallinn. In 2017, the number of active enterprises increased in all counties. The most enterprises were added in Tartu (440) and Pärnu (220) counties. There were slightly over 13,500 economically active enterprises in Tartu county, followed by Pärnu county with around 7,500 and Ida-Viru and Lääne-Viru counties with 6,500 and 4,500 enterprises, respectively. Less than 100 enterprises were added in Jõgeva, Järva, Valga, Põlva and Võru counties. The growth in the number of enterprises was smallest in Hiiu county (5 enterprises).

The number of micro-enterprises increased the most, with approximately 7,000 added in a year – over twice as many as in 2016 when 3,000 were added. Micro enterprises are enterprises without salaried employees or with less than 10 employed persons, and they constitute 94% of all active enterprises in Estonia. In 2017, there were approximately 120,000 micro enterprises. The highest number was added in Harju county. The number of large enterprises (with at least 250 employed persons) was 200 in 2017 (same as the previous year), with over a half operating in Tallinn. Similarly to 2016, around 70% of large enterprises were located in Harju county, followed by Tartu (8%) and Ida-Viru (5%) counties. There were approximately 100 small enterprises (with 10–49 employed persons) added, while the number of medium-sized enterprises (50–249 employed persons) decreased by 34.

New enterprises were added in every economic activity, excl. agriculture where their number continues to decline. The number of active enterprises increased the most (27%) in financial and insurance activities – over 400 enterprises were added. The biggest increase occurred in the number of enterprises engaged in professional, scientific and technical activities (over 1,000 were added, i.e. twice as many as the previous year). The economic activities of construction, information and communication, and wholesale and retail trade grew by slightly under a thousand enterprises. The number of enterprises in accommodation and food service activities increased 6.5%; over 200 active enterprises were added compared to 2016.

Economically active units by legal form, 2002–2017

In order to examine the level of globalization of business in Estonia and the role of enterprise groups in the economy, especially of multinational groups, Statistics Estonia has been regularly collecting data on enterprise groups operating in Estonia since 2005.

In 2017, enterprise groups continued to play an important role in the Estonian economy. 9% of all economically active units (12,453 enterprises) were part of enterprise groups. In 2017, enterprise groups accounted for approximately 63% of the turnoverb of Estonian enterprises and employed over a third of all persons employed.

The number of enterprise groups increases every year, and 6,988 enterprise groups operated in Estonia in 2017. As compared to domestically controlled enterprise groups, foreign enterprise groups are added at a slower rate, their share has continuously decreased. Whereas in 2004 foreign enterprise groups constituted about a half of all enterprise groups, their share had diminished to 32% in 2017.

In 2017, enterprises belonging to Estonian enterprise groups accounted for 7% and members of foreign enterprise groups for 2% of all economically active enterprises. The contribution of enterprise groups to employment in Estonia has been significant over the years – enterprise groups employed 36% of all employed persons in 2017. Employment in enterprise groups increased 3% in 2017 year on year – both in domestically and foreign-controlled groups.

In 2017, foreign enterprise groups employed 16% of all persons employed in Estonia and generated 30% of the net turnover of enterprises. Enterprise groups of 64 countries had subsidiaries in Estonia. 86% of the foreign enterprise groups were controlled by a European group head. Of the 28 Member States of the European Union, only Portugal and Croatia did not have any active subsidiaries in Estonia in 2017. The enterprise groups of Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom had the greatest impact on the Estonian economy.

As usual, the impact of foreign enterprise groups on employment was greatest in financial intermediation, where 60% of the persons employed in the economic activity worked in units of foreign enterprise groups. In 2017, foreign enterprise groups employed every third person employed in manufacturing, information and communication, and administrative and support service activities.

Estonian enterprises have set up subsidiaries in 65 countries, mainly in Europe but also in Asia, North and South America, Australia and Africa. Still, Estonian multinational groups were primarily interested in doing business in the closest countries (Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Russia) where the business conditions are most familiar.

Economic units registered in legal registers are not all economically active. Economic statistics are produced based on the data of economically active units. In this article, the population of economically active units was analysed – its volume, geographical distribution and distribution by economic activities.

Statistics Estonia maintains the Business Register for Statistical Purposes since 1994. The population of economically active units in the register serves as a basis for producing economic statistics. For updating the Business Register for Statistical Purposes, data from the following registers are used: the commercial register, the non-profit associations and foundations register, the register of taxable persons and the state register of state and local government institutions. In addition to legal registers, other data sources are used, such as statistical and financial reports. The Business Register for Statistical Purposes includes all registered units, but unlike legal registers, the Business Register for Statistical Purposes determines at the end of each year the population of economically active units in the corresponding year. This includes all units that were economically active in the reference year, including the ones that were active only during a part of the reference period.

Turnover does not include the data of financial intermediation enterprises, because their income statement differs from that of other enterprises.

aNon-profit associations are considered economically active if it is not known that activity was suspended or ceased. These non-profit associations have submitted data to Statistics Estonia (for statistical activities), the Tax and Customs Board (tax and/or customs declarations), the commercial register (recorded turnover in 2016 annual reports) or are apartment associations. In the previous years, all non-profit associations were considered active if there was no information regarding suspension or cessation of activity.

bTurnover does not include the data of financial intermediation enterprises, because their income statement differs from that of other enterprises.