The Central Statistics Office released the results of wave two of its Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey (BICS) to the public today [May 18th 2020]. The online survey sampled 3,000 enterprises, giving an insight into the extent to which COVID-19 has affected businesses around the country. Information for this survey was collected between Tuesday, May 5th and Monday May 12th.

Of those businesses who responded to wave two of BICS, just under one quarter had ceased trading either permanently or temporarily as of May 3rd, with the hardest hit sector in terms of closures being construction where one-third of businesses had ceased trading. The industry sector (which includes mining and quarrying, manufacturing, and utilities) was the least affected in terms of closures with 85.5% of businesses continuing to trade as of May 3rd

Across all sectors, 70.4% of businesses estimated that their turnover was below that of “normal or close to normal” between the dates of April 20th and May 3rd, while businesses did not generally expect the situation to improve in the short-term – 73.1% expected below average turnover between May 4th and May 17th

Just over one-fifth of businesses had experienced no changes in their workforce due to COVID-19 up to May 3rd. One-third of responding businesses reported having let go of staff temporarily, while 5.9% said they have permanently let staff go. 36.7% of business reported decreasing their staff’s working hours. On the more positive side, 5.2% of businesses reported increasing staff’s working hours while 4.8% of businesses have hired extra staff due to COVID-19. 

The survey also highlighted the changing nature of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. 95.9% of businesses reported changes in workplace practices up to May 3rd. 69.2% had employed remote working with 30.5% of businesses reporting that majority of staff were working remotely, rising to 38% when considering large businesses alone (a large business being defined as having in excess of 250 employees). Technology was also embraced by a majority of businesses, with 52% reporting having adopted new methods of communications in response to COVID-19. Just over half of respondents had made changes to their workplace to facilitate social distancing.

In positive news for the sustainability of businesses in the medium-term, after excluding don’t knows, 71% of businesses were confident of having sufficient financial resources to operate for longer than three months, with 55.5% confident they had enough financial resources to operate for six months or longer. Only 3% of total respondents said they were not confident in their business’s financial ability to continue operating, while 5.5% estimated that they only had enough financial resources to survive less than a month.

In terms of the percentage of businesses who availed of government supports, 51.4% of all responding businesses said they had availed of government support, with 49.5% availing of the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS). This proportion was slightly larger for small and medium enterprises (less than 250 employees) with 53.2% availing of any government supports and 51% for the WSS, with the corresponding figures for large businesses being 43.4% and 42.6% respectively.

In a press statement attached to the survey, CSO statistician Colin Hanley, said that “from the first wave of the BICS, 16.8% of the enterprises who had ceased trading by 19 April and also responded to Wave Two had returned to trading by 3 May.”

As with all surveys, this represents no more than a snapshot in time, but it does give a suggestion as to the extent COVID-19 has impacted businesses in Ireland. One should be wary on drawing any serious conclusions from this data however, as there was a low response rate of 24.5%, which equates to 735 of 3000 businesses, and, as Colin Hanley noted, “the results presented in the survey represent responding enterprises only and are unweighted”.

Complete results of the survey can be found here. Infographic and tables courtesy of Central Statistics Office.