The common name in Germany SME is based on quantitative criteria for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs or SME partly for engl. Small and medium [- sized ] enterprises ) and qualitative criteria for the family.

The middle class is often confused with the sociological middle class, and the dictionary has even recorded only this meaning until recently. Historically see also petty bourgeois or middle class.

In the absence of equivalent translations found as a loanword middle class in the English and Spanish language input the term.

SME definition

A generally accepted or even statutory definition of the middle class does not exist. From a quantitative point of view, the term refers to medium-sized companies in all industries including crafts and freelance professions that do not exceed a certain size. In the alternative, the annual turnover, the number of jobs and / or total assets are used for size determination.

The Institute for SME Research ( IfM) in Bonn defines small and medium enterprises as follows:

Both size classes together form according to this definition, the middle class according to quantitative criteria. In contrast, the KfW bank group defines the middle class over a maximum annual turnover of 50 million euros and a maximum annual balance sheet total of 43 million euros. Companies whose turnover is about can not apply for certain government grants made ​​by the KfW banking group. In international comparison, the Small Business or midsize company defined by an upper limit, which varies by state between 100 and 500 employees.

The middle class is largely, but not only from family. Like these, it is characterized by the unity of ownership, management, liability and risk, ie by the unity of existence and economic management and the responsible participation of corporate management on all corporate policy related decisions. In the end, defines the middle class by its (group independence). This is expressed in the ownership interest in associated companies on the basis of minority clause for participation in the context of the EU definition or the definition of the IfM Bonn.

Economic Importance

The Mittelstand in the Federal Republic of Germany covers by quantitative definition

  • Approximately 99.7% of all VAT registered businesses, in which almost
  • 65.9 % of all social insurance contributions are made ​​,
  • 38.3 % of all revenues are generated and
  • Approximately 83.0 % of all apprentices are trained.

If one considers, however, only the family, the economic significance is based on the following numbers:

  • Approximately 95 percent of Germany-based businesses and companies are run as family businesses.
  • They contribute about 41.5 percent to total sales of all companies and
  • They represent 57 percent of the jobs.

The middle class in Germany falls in the course progresses further globalization and global corporations under increasing competitive pressure. To compensate for the resulting disadvantages have become more and more SMEs to solid cooperation, so-called composite groups together in the past few decades. As an individual member of a buying group is left to the respective family get the entrepreneurial freedom, through joint inter-company activities, it may gain a market position with the otherwise can only attend to large companies. Composite groups occur today on regionally, regionally, nationally or even internationally. The inter-company collaboration of the composite group is usually organized by a legally independent central unit and refers to a wide range of areas such as purchasing, marketing, logistics, IT solutions, financial services, consulting or training. In Germany currently has around 250,000 companies are members of 45 different branches of trade, crafts and service industries in 400 composite groups. 320 of these groups are on the Central Association of Commercial composite groups eV ( ZGV ), headquartered in Berlin, Brussels and Cologne interest politically organized.

Extensive data contained by the Institute issued for SME Research Bonn Key data on SMEs, which are annually re-calculated and published on the website of the Institute.

Financing of SMEs

According to calculations by the German Federal Bank included the financing of the middle class ( according to quantitative criteria ) in 2004, an average equity ratio of 15.1% of total assets. The debt will be financed 80% through loans.

Due to the small capital market integration, the dependence on bank loans is very high. According grew up during the financial crisis, the fear that due to the equity situation of German banks and the difficult situation in the securitization markets for SME risks play a credit squeeze on the German Mittelstand. Meanwhile, the lending of German banks has improved again. In July/2010 credit constraints for German industry and trade has declined for the seventh consecutive month.

In all sectors, the average capital adequacy ratios of SMEs are significantly lower than those of large companies, which had in 2004 an average equity ratio of 27.5%. It should however be noted that the average capital ratios have a high scattering by economic sector. Compared to 1997, the small and medium-sized enterprises could expand their capital ratios but more than the large companies.

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Promotion of SMEs

Since March 1994, the German Mittelstand is awarded in competition with the grand prize of the middle class. For this purpose, an awards ceremony will be held each November in each year, may be awarded in the companies, institutions and personalities in different categories. 2011 were nominated for award, a selection of which will be selected by a jury for the awards nationwide, more than 3,500 companies. 2008, the chairman of the Oskar- Patzelt - Foundation, Dr. Helfried Schmidt, the founder of the competition " Grand Prix of the middle class " was also was honored for his achievements with the Federal Cross of Merit.

Since 1996, gives markt intern the German SME Award " for an outstanding and convincing use and clear positions for the benefit of the middle class. Award recognizes those politicians who fawn over the German middle class, not only in speeches but it also in everyday political life through action and advice to. stand " The awards were given, inter alia, Gerhard Schröder, Roman Herzog, Cardinal Karl Lehmann and Viviane Reding.