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FSB report launched on how to support self-employment.

Byline: THE FSB VIEW JANET JONES

MALL businesses are the engine room of the Welsh economy.

Some 94.9% of all Welsh businesses are SMEs and these firms hire people across Wales.

Smaller firms hire people locally, spend their money locally and sustain vibrant local economies. That's why FSB has this week launched a new report on how to support existing and future selfemployment.

Going Solo: Understanding Self-employment in Wales found 38% of jobs growth in the past 10 years has been created by self-employment, and 13% of employment in Wales is found in the self-employed field.

However, Welsh Government policy-making tends to be driven by sectors and has not always engaged with self-employment issues. FSB Wales has called on the Welsh Government to undertake a policy review and focus on several key issues.

The infrastructure to support selfemployment in Wales can always be built upon.

Digital connectivity (particularly in rural Wales), transport infrastructure and the suitability of premises and availability of co-working spaces are all issues which should be reviewed by the Welsh Government with a view to promoting the circumstances in which self-employment can thrive.

Our new report found that the effect of place on self-employment in Wales is significant.

The report identifies three local authority types in Wales, which are "rural", "urban and urban periphery" and "Valleys and deprived urban", which mostly divide into self-employment rates of around 20%, between 10%-20% and under 10% respectively.

This must be taken into account as we move towards regional economic development.

For some people, self-employment is a lifestyle choice and not a decision taken with the aim of growing a business.

For others, the opposite is true and while they start small, they have big ambitions.

A recent FSB report, Wales' Missing Middle focuses on how the Welsh Government can help medium-sized businesses - those hiring between 40 and 250 staff - grow and thrive.

We have argued that Wales has a missing middle and that the Welsh Government's upcoming strategy for the economy should include details on how we can support indigenous Welsh businesses both to stay in Wales and to continue to grow and meet their ambitions.

The recent launch of the Development Bank of Wales offers up a new opportunity for supporting growth in Wales.

For smaller businesses across Wales, access to finance can potentially mean the ability to grow a business, hire staff or, indeed, startup a new venture, and so we very much welcome the increased availability of funding to SMEs. While the institution must address some of the concerns raised by Professor Dylan Jones-Evans in 2013, the Development Bank could offer finance and support to businesses in a new and effective way. It needs to be as much about "development" as it is about "bank" - it needs to be clear in the new Welsh Government Economic Delivery Plan where the organisation is going to be deployed to support the economic development vision.

Our recent report on the Missing Middle highlighting the need to grow more medium-sized businesses is a good example of where the Development Bank can be positively deployed to help address weaknesses in the Welsh economy and we look forward to working with the Development Bank on this.

Championing the self-employed is in our DNA. We were established to support those who strike out on their own in order to make their idea a successful business.

The Development Bank of Wales and upcoming strategy for the economy are opportunities to build on the support we already offer the smaller businesses and mediumsized firms which deliver so much for the Welsh economy.

| Janet Jones is chair of the FSB Wales policy unit.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 25, 2017
Words:608
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