Tough Times for Small Businesses - But Cautious Optimism Among Other Companies

Framtidens ekonomi- och lönefunktion | 26.02.2024

by Helena Malmström

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Economic and geopolitical uncertainty are the challenges that Swedish companies are primarily concerned about. At the same time, they perceive their current economic situation as relatively strong and the prospects for the coming year as cautiously optimistic. However, it is toughest for smaller companies, as shown by the Azets survey. 

Azets Barometer is a series of surveys that provide business insights from small and medium-sized enterprises in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. It identifies trends related to future prospects, economic situation, and the threats and opportunities seen by companies. We have compiled the results regarding Swedish companies from the survey conducted in January 2024.


Economic Situation and Future Outlook 

The economic future outlook for Swedish companies for the coming year is characterized by a tone of cautious optimism. 50% of companies are positive about the future outlook, while 35% of companies are negative. Companies with more than 100 employees are the most positive, while small companies with fewer than 10 employees are the most negative. 

The current economic situation for Swedish companies can be described as relatively strong. Two-thirds of companies rate the economic situation as 6 or higher on a 10-point scale, reflecting an overwhelmingly positive view. Companies with more than 100 employees appear to be the most stable, with almost 40% of them rating their economic situation as 8 or higher. However, it is important to note that 10% of companies, regardless of size, indicate a very poor economic situation, indicating significant challenges for some companies. Among small companies with fewer than 10 employees, as many as ¼ companies report having a very strained economic situation. 


Economic and geopolitical uncertainty are the main challenges that Swedish companies are primarily concerned about. The survey does not show any other alarming challenges for the coming year. Challenges that have been significant in previous years are now of lesser importance, such as recruiting/retaining talent, compliance with regulations, and implementation of new technology. 


Swedish companies expect moderate growth in the coming year. Expectations for revenue and profit are positive. Plans to hire more employees are more modest but still with an expected slight increase in the number of employees. Small companies with fewer than 10 employees are more pessimistic about growth, which is consistent with their future outlook for the coming year. 

Tax System 

Regarding whether the Swedish tax system hinders or promotes entrepreneurship, companies are cautiously optimistic. However, Swedish micro-enterprises stand out, as they believe that the Swedish tax system actively hinders them. They are most critical when it comes to support for research and development, as well as hiring and retaining personnel. 


Swedish companies, regardless of size, are adept at implementing sustainability initiatives; 83% of companies report this, which is higher than companies in other Nordic countries. In addition to basic initiatives such as recycling and energy saving, over half of Swedish companies (57%) implement more advanced initiatives such as employee training, adjustments in the supply chain, carbon offsetting, and circular business models. 


One-third of Swedish companies report experiencing at least one cybersecurity incident in the past year. It is primarily companies with over 100 employees that have reported being affected by incidents. Nearly 20% of companies, mainly small businesses, do not know or do not want to disclose whether they have been subjected to any incidents. This may indicate that larger companies have a higher awareness of cybersecurity and are more likely to report incidents. 

Hybrid and Remote Work 

Larger companies with more than a hundred employees, as well as micro-enterprises with fewer than 10 employees, are most positive about hybrid and remote work. 40% of these companies are very positive about the effect hybrid and remote work have on their operations. However, the challenges are greater among companies with 10-100 employees; only 16% are equally positive. 

See the all of the results from Azets Barometer January 2024 via our interactive dashboard.


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About Helena Malmström

Helena arbetar som Head of Marketing på Azets.