A close-up of a smiling man with a smiling woman sewing in the background.
Sewing workshop of a family business in China.
Photo:Marcel Crozet / ILO

MSMEs: Key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that the pandemic and containment measures do not impact everyone in the same way. Among the private sector, Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), especially those led by women, youth, ethnic minorities and migrants, suffered the most. An International Trade Centre survey on COVID-19 impact among businesses in 136 countries has shown that nearly 62% of women-led small businesses have been strongly affected by the crisis, compared to just over half of firms led by men, and women-owned are 27% more likely not to survive the pandemic.

As governments vaccinate their populations, the world continues to deal with several other challenges that include the ongoing effects of climate change, biodiversity lost, and pollution. If unabated, these three crises are expected to have severe negative implications for economic growth, human health and ecosystems, employment and livelihoods. What lessons can we capture from COVID-19 response to ensure that MSMEs are resilient to the looming climate crisis, and are drivers of an inclusive transition towards more sustainable economies?

Formal and informal MSMEs make up over 90% of all firms and account, on average, for 70% of total employment and 50% of GDP. As such, they are key actors in achieving a green recovery.

Small matters infography

THE POWER OF SMALL: UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF MSMEs

Explore this infostory to discover the full potential of the MSMEs in securing a better future of work of everyone.

MSME Day 2021: celebrate the day through collaborative ideas that facilitate business push

The General Assembly declared 27 June Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, to raise public awareness of their contribution to sustainable development and the global economy.

In 2021, the theme is "MSME 2021: key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery." That is why the UN will be hosting a series of events to explore how MSMEs – the backbone of our economies – can be equipped to ensure an equitable and sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.

Join the social media campaign using UN digital assets.

2021 UN Events

As micro, small and medium-sized enterprises emerge stronger from the aftermath of COVID-19, the United Nations and its partners celebrate the pivotal role that these resilient entrepreneurs play in strengthening the global economy.

In order to find inspiration in these difficult times, the United Nations hosts three special events:

Banner of the event

SME Competitiveness Outlook 2021: Empowering the Green Recovery

Thursday, 24 June 2021 / 9:00 – 9:45 EDT / 15:00 - 15:45 CEST  

Join International Trade Centre virtually for the TV talk show 'Empowering the Green Recovery', with key findings from the 2021 edition of the International Trade Centre's annual flagship report, the SME Competitiveness Outlook. Watch business and trade leaders discuss lessons from the pandemic for climate change and the launch of the Green Recovery Plan to support small business. Watch the live talk show on the ITC Facebook and LinkedIn and engage in the live chat, and to come with questions for ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton.

Banner of the event

MSME Digital Champions Initiative

Friday, 25 June 2021 / 9:00 – 9:45 EDT  /  15:00-15:45 CEST 

We are calling business support organizations and non-governmental organizations to submit innovative ideas that helps small, exporting businesses in going digital. The initiative will be officially launched on 25 June at 14:00 CEST through a Zoom event. Winners will be announced at the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva from 30 November to 3 December 2021.

Flyer for the event

UN MSME Day Event: MSMEs: Key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery

Monday, 28 June 2021 / 08:00-10:30 EDT / 14:00-16:30 CEST

Achieving the SDGs, and an economy that is greener and fairer requires resilient and flourishing MSMEs everywhere. A live panel discussion with entrepreneurs from Argentina, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Senegal who will share insights on how they contribute to an inclusive and sustainable recovery. In high-level plenary segments, leaders from government, international organizations, business support organizations, and the private sector will share priorities to support MSMEs on this path. Watch the event live on UN WebTV.

Did you know?

  • 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world.
  • In emerging markets, most formal jobs are generated by SMEs, which create 7 out of 10 jobs.
  • Increasing annual investments in small and medium-sized enterprises by $1 trillion would yield disproportionate dividends in terms of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Small firms in developing countries are among the most concerned about climate change: 68% of companies in sub-Saharan Africa say that environmental risks are significant to their business, according to research by the International Trade Centre (ITC). Half of surveyed companies in developed countries say the same.

Related links

Documents and publications

The importance of MSMEs for the SDGs

logo for SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

 

Micro-, small and medium sized enterprises are vital in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. They are an important element in the implementation of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure.)

A woman working in her business

The International Trade Centre, leading agency of this Observance, is closely following how the pandemic is affecting MSMEs, with a particular focus on those small businesses in developing countries. This dedicated section provides insights, guidance and resources for small businesses, and supports organizations and policymakers. Along with it, the ILO, UNIDO, and the World Bank, among others, join the fight to help these enterprises to cope with the coronavirus' effects.

A woman holds up a blouse

From export development to sustainability or e-commerce and export processes, the International Trade Center offers a wide range of courses that can help MSMEs in their growth. Take a look at its varied catalog with training in different languages.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.