Cepyme warns that the "deterioration" of the productivity of Spanish companies "is beginning to become chronic"

MADRID, 1 Abr.

Cepyme warns that the "deterioration" of the productivity of Spanish companies "is beginning to become chronic"


The Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (Cepyme) has warned that the deterioration in the productivity of Spanish SMEs "is beginning to become chronic" based on what was observed in the fourth quarter of 2023, when productivity fell by 0.7 % in year-on-year rate and continued to distance itself from the pre-pandemic level.

In its report on the situation of the Spanish company, Cepyme indicates that the rebound in productivity that occurred in 2021 "only served to compensate for the great collapse registered in the pandemic." "Unfortunately, once activity stabilized, productivity has recovered its downward trend that began in 2017 and is now slightly below that of 2015," the employers' association asserts.

And, despite the growth in activity that has been recorded in recent quarters, this has not been enough for the company to generate a productivity gain, especially in view of other indicators such as sales.

But in addition, Cepyme points out that the behavior of sales and employment is growing, but continues to decelerate, and the slight reduction in operating costs, especially energy in the fourth quarter of the year, has not been enough to improve the situation of Spanish SMEs.

Specifically, SME sales closed the year with a growth of 3.5%, compared to the 20.5% that was recorded five quarters ago, in the second quarter of 2022. Eliminating the effect of inflation, the document says , sales grew in the last quarter of 2023 by 1.2%.

The slowdown in sales is combined with an increase in workforce of 2.7% in the case of medium-sized companies and 2.1% in small ones. Meanwhile, labor costs have seen 10 quarters of increases of more than 5%.

Although operating costs fell in the fourth quarter in year-on-year terms (-0.7%) thanks to the performance of the energy component (-22.6%), the cost of services used by SMEs accelerates (3.1% ) and labor costs continue to grow strongly (5.3%).

In the fourth quarter, the year-on-year increase in labor costs was 5.3%, the highest in the last five quarters. In addition, since the fourth quarter of 2021, labor costs increased by 11% for small firms and 10% for medium-sized firms.

Added to all this are the problems related to the greater shortage of credit, since the proportion of new loans over sales is lower than in previous years and the average interest rate for SMEs has exceeded 5% for the first time since 2009, from 5%. .01% in the fourth quarter of 2023, compared to 3.05% recorded a year earlier.

On the other hand, the report says, the context of higher inflation has translated into a restriction of commercial credit between companies. This stood at 55.2% of SME sales in the fourth quarter, a percentage that has decreased for the fourth consecutive quarter.

As a consequence, the financial effort of SMEs linked to commercial debt amounted to 2,630 million euros in the fourth quarter, which represents an increase of 50.1% year-on-year. Cepyme points out that this translates for a small company into a financial effort of 5,300 euros annualized, almost double that at the end of 2021; and 40,200 euros for medium-sized firms compared to 16,800 in the same period.

However, in Cepyme's opinion, the reduction in the total debt of SMEs is positive, continuing the downward trend that began in 2008. The debt ratio stands at 82.3%, the lowest since 1999.

Regarding the number of bankruptcy proceedings, the fourth quarter showed a figure of 2,083 SMEs filed for bankruptcy, the third worst quarterly figure since 2013 and 4.2% more year-on-year, of which 2,050 were small firms and the rest medium-sized firms.

Cepyme expresses its concern about the fact that the number of bankruptcy proceedings has been higher than that of the fourth quarter of 2022, since then the delay derived from the bankruptcy moratorium due to the pandemic had not yet dissipated nor was there an extraordinary accumulation of cases such as the one after the strike of lawyers of the Administration of Justice that occurred in 2023.

In conclusion, the Cepyme report noted a weakening in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous three, marking the lowest level of the last year.