Press Release from 2022-04-05 / Group, KfW Research

KfW Research: Coronavirus impact on SMEs is worsening again

  • In March, 54 % of all small and medium-sized enterprises were reeling under the effects of the pandemic
  • Omicron wave is causing employee absences
  • Manufacturers and construction firms in particular have greater problems than in autumn

The effects of the Omicron wave are showing in the SME sector. According to a current representative analysis conducted by KfW Research on the basis of the KfW SME Panel, the coronavirus impact on small and medium-sized enterprises is increasing again (survey period: 7 to 14 March 2022). Overall, 54 % of all SMEs were generally affected by the pandemic and the associated restrictions in March 2022 – an increase of 5 percentage points or 190,000 businesses compared with the previous survey of September 2021. That puts the number of impacted companies at 2.05 million at the start of spring.

Burdens from employee absences have grown most sharply, with employees on sick leave or in home quarantine or unable to come to work due to closures of schools and child daycare centres. This affects one quarter of all small and medium-sized enterprises in the ongoing Omicron wave with its particularly high infection rates (24 %, +10 percentage points on September 2021). Turnover losses were reported by 30 % of SMEs (+1 percentage point), while 24 % reported lower liquidity (+5 percentage points). Slightly fewer businesses are experiencing disruptions from supply chain problems than in September (22 %, -3 percentage points).

The sharp increase in employee absences means that those sectors where it is difficult or impossible to work from home are again suffering more from the pandemic. Construction firms are experiencing the greatest increase in impacts compared with the autumn survey (+24 percentage points). Manufacturing enterprises are also much more affected than half a year ago (+10 percentage points). That means SMEs in this sector continue to be more heavily affected by the pandemic than those in other sectors, with 77 % being impacted. By contrast, SME service providers are only slightly more heavily affected than before (+3 percentage points to 51 %), while retailers and wholesalers are moderately more affected (+7 percentage points to 71 %).

Pandemic-induced turnover losses in the SME sector continue to be significant. One in four enterprises recorded a drop in the first two months of the year 2022 compared with the previous year (27 %). A decline in liquidity was reported by 24 % of companies (September 2021: 19 %). But as businesses are holding comfortable buffers, bottlenecks are unlikely to play a role. Payment difficulties were hardly reported in mid-March 2022. Expectations regarding their equity base are also cause for optimism that the capital structure of SMEs will remain intact.

“The return to pre-pandemic day-to-day operations has moved further out again for many SMEs and self-employed persons”, said Dr Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist of KfW, summarising the findings of the current survey of KfW Research. “Besides, the war in Ukraine combined with directly and indirectly felt effects of sanctions is afflicting many businesses. The ultimate consequences are virtually unpredictable. As spring begins, SMEs generally find themselves in a difficult and tense situation.”

The current survey can be retrieved at

The database:

The current analysis by KfW Research is based on a supplementary survey performed as part of the KfW SME Panel. For the supplementary coronavirus survey, the Financial Services Division of GfK SE surveyed representative small and medium-sized enterprises online on the current impacts of the coronavirus crisis on behalf of KfW Group during the period from 7 to 14 March 2022. All enterprises that had already participated in an earlier wave of the KfW SME Panel and had provided a valid email address were surveyed. Responses from a total of 2,400 enterprises were evaluated in the current survey. As the supplementary survey was linked to the main database of the KfW SME Panel, its results provide a representative picture of the current coronavirus impact.


Portrait Christine Volk