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Business statistics Australia

Insights and analysis on Australian businesses, from those with the biggest profits to small business owners.

Quick stats

  • There are 2,589,873 businesses in the Australian economy according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.
  • Small businesses make up 97.3% of all businesses in Australia.
  • Companies are making less, with a 1.7% decline in gross operating profits in the September 2023 quarter compared to the same period in 2022.

Number of businesses in Australia

There are 2.589 million businesses in Australia as of June 2023, ranging from self-employed people to large businesses with 200 or more employees.

Over the past decade, the number of businesses in Australia has been growing at a slow but relatively steady rate.

Finder analysis shows there has been a 29.3% increase in the total number of businesses in Australia between 2013 and 2023. This is despite a slight drop and plateau in business numbers in 2022, before they started increasing again.

How many small businesses are there?

There are 2.52 million small businesses in Australia, which make up the majority (97.3%) of all businesses in the country. This is based on the ABS definition of a small business as having fewer than 20 employees.

  • Small businesses (0–19 employees): 2,520,419
  • Medium-sized businesses (20–199 employees): 64,559
  • Larger businesses and companies (200+ employees): 4,895

Businesses by turnover size

In the 2022–23 financial year, most businesses (91.2%) had a turnover of less than $2 million.

This includes 24.7% of businesses with a turnover of less than $50,000.

But, at the other end of the scale, businesses earning $10 million or more increased by 11.9%.

This was the largest increase over any turnover size range. And it was mostly due to increased revenue for businesses that were previously earning between $5 million and $10 million.

New and closed businesses by state

In the 2023 financial year, the overall number of businesses increased in all Australian states and territories except Victoria. While the state had a 15.8% entry rate for new businesses, its exit rate was higher at 16.6%.

The ACT had the biggest percentage increase in businesses (3.5%), followed by QLD (2.3%) and the NT (2%). But NSW still has the highest number of businesses for any state – which makes sense as it also has the biggest population.

It's worth noting that some businesses exiting the market may have been in operation for years before closing down.

Business insolvencies in Australia

There were 6,719 companies in various stages of insolvency at the start of 2024, according to data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

A total of 5,040 businesses entered into external administration or controller appointments for the first time between July 2023 and January 2024. This was an increase of 27.48% compared to the previous period.

How many zombie companies are there?

There were 274 zombie companies in Australia in Q4 2023, according to analysis by KPMG. This means the company is still in operation but at risk of defaulting on its debts.

There are lots of different definitions of a zombie company but in basic terms, it means the business can keep the lights on and not much else. It also typically excludes startups and new businesses.

Biggest companies in Australia

Australia's Big Four banks – ANZ, CommBank, NAB and Westpac – are among the biggest companies in Australia based on market capitalisation. Other prominent brands include BHP and Wesfarmers, which owns Bunnings, Kmart Group, Officeworks and a 50% share in Flybuys.

10 biggest companies in Australia by market capitalisation

NameIndustryMarket capitalisation snapshot (January 2024)
BHP Group Limited (BHP)Materials$231.79 billion
Commonwealth Bank Of Australia (CBA)Banks$189.70 billion
CSL Limited (CSL)Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and life sciences$139.61 billion
National Australia Bank Limited (NAB)Banks$97.55 billion
Fortescue LTD (FMG)Materials$84.91 billion
Westpac Banking Corporation (WBC)Banks$81.23 billion
ANZ Group Holdings Limited (ANZ)Banks$78.58 billion
Macquarie Group Limited (MQG)Financial services$70.57 billion
Wesfarmers Limited (WES)Consumer discretionary distribution and retail$​​64.86 billion
Newmont Corporation (NEM)Materials$60.62 billion

Source: Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), 24 January 2024

Keep in mind: This is a snapshot of market capitalisation values. The ASX tracks these rankings with almost real-time data.

Most profitable industries in Australia

  • Mining: $220 billion
  • Rental, hiring and real estate services: $71.3 billion
  • Construction: $52.1 billion
  • Manufacturing: $50.6 billion
  • Retail trade: $40.7 billion

Source: ABS Australian industry data, earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation (2021–22)

While these industries are the most profitable in Australia, 2023 was challenging for many businesses. ABS data has revealed overall company gross operating profits fell 1.7% in the September 2023 quarter compared to the same time last year.

Wages and salaries also increased 9.7% for the same period, which could be particularly challenging for smaller businesses.

Need help now? If you're a small business owner and need support, contact your bank to discuss options. Or call the Small Business Debt Helpline on 1800 413 828.

Business lending

The total outstanding value for business lending is $611.69 billion according to analysis from the Australian Banking Association. While this figure has been gradually increasing since 2019, there was a big 16.62% increase in the total value of loans between March and April 2023.

This coincided with the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hold the official cash rate in April 2023. It was also 3 months after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reduced capital requirements for SME loans from banks.

New loans for small and medium businesses have been increasing since September 2023, following a sharp drop at the start of the current financial year. New loan values for medium and small businesses went from a combined total of $23.71 billion to $17.14 billion between June and July 2023.

Business credit cards

Finder's credit card database includes market details for 82 financial institutions and over 250 cards (including charge cards). Some key details for business cards include:

  • Number of business charge and credit cards on the market: 55
  • Cards designed for SMEs: 41
  • Cards designed for corporate entities: 14
  • Number of business credit cards with no annual fee: 2
  • Highest business card fee: $1,750
  • Lowest minimum income: $30,000

As well as businesses using credit cards, most of them accept credit cards.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, 97% of retail merchants accepted card payments in 2022. And cash payments made up just 13% of all transactions.

An average of $300 billion worth of non-cash payments were made in 2023, according to the RBA. This makes it important for businesses to choose merchant services that give customers a choice in how they pay, while also keeping costs affordable.

Need cash flow or finance for your business? Compare business credit cards and loans on Finder.

Image: @kate_sept2004 via Canva.com

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