Businesses in Wales backed by Welsh and UK government funding are seeing sustained recovery two years after the start of lockdown.
These trends and others are detailed in a new report from Economic Intelligence Wales (EIW). The report assesses the impact of the Welsh Government’s financial interventions through its Economic Resilience Fund (ERF), which supported businesses across Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jointly commissioned by EIW, the Development Bank of Wales and the Welsh Government, the report published today (Wednesday, April 13) is the second in a series of five stages of ongoing research into the effectiveness of the ERF.
It examines data from the third and fourth rounds of the ERF which delivered £95m and supported more than 60,000 jobs. The research also incorporates analysis of an in-depth survey of more than 1,700 businesses who received support during the first and second rounds – along with the Covid-19 Wales Business Loan Scheme and the Start-Up Grants scheme led by local authorities.
Some of the report’s findings include:
- 86% of respondents felt support from Welsh Government was as important as the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme in safeguarding employment
- 95% of businesses supported during rounds 1 and 2 of funding were still trading at the time of the survey from August to October 2021
- While 65% of the funding provided supported working capital position,
- 40% was used by businesses to invest in staff training, innovation, and development capital, putting recipients in a stronger position for the future
- 58% believed that all jobs in their businesses were at risk at the time of their application
- 22% of respondents reported employee numbers had grown since the beginning of the pandemic
- 23% had fewer employees at the time of the survey than prior to the pandemic.
- Though the large majority of these said jobs were either saved or safeguarded thanks to Welsh Government support
The survey reveals that whilst many businesses saw a drop in output due to the pandemic, this wasn’t matched by a corresponding decline in employment, thanks to furlough and Welsh Government support. Critically, employment declines did not match the severity of the declines in output reported by beneficiaries.
Moreover, the survey reveals the beginnings of sustained recovery amongst the beneficiaries, with more than one third of respondents expecting to increase employment in the next financial year. This was despite the majority of respondents seeing output falls of over 20% in the prior financial year.
Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething MS, said: “The Covid pandemic has been a very difficult period for many Welsh businesses. The Welsh Government has pulled every lever to support them.
“This independent report by EIW shows just how important and significant the actions of the Welsh Government in helping businesses have been during this period. The finding that 86% of respondents felt support from Welsh Government was as important as the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme in safeguarding employment shows that our made-in-Wales support and interventions made a genuine difference. Timely and focused support, delivered through our Economic Resilience Fund, has helped keep people in jobs and helped the businesses that they work in to survive.
“Our economy has begun to emerge from an unprecedented downturn and our unemployment rate continues to track lower than the rest of the UK. It is heartening to see a significant proportion of the businesses we supported now expressing confidence about their ability to grow employment in the year ahead. The Welsh Government remains committed to playing our full part in building and sustaining Wales’ economic recovery.”
Giles Thorley, Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Wales said: “This ongoing programme of research is improving our understanding of the effectiveness of the bold interventions by the Welsh and UK governments during the pandemic. It is vital that we understand the efficacy of these measures both in terms of immediate survival, but also in the context of longer-term economic growth and the results so far are optimistic with 95% of business supported in the early stages of the pandemic still trading and 22% already showing signs of growth.
“This ongoing evaluation of the interventions made to support businesses in Wales, has benefitted from a collaborative approach. As such, I’m pleased we have been able to work alongside partners in the Welsh Government and Cardiff Business School to produce this report as it clearly demonstrates the resilience and ambition of Welsh entrepreneurs.
“The Development Bank will continue to work alongside all our partners to support Welsh business and the continued economic recovery.”
Max Munday from the Welsh Economy Research Unit at Cardiff Business School, one of the report authors said: “The report shows the important role played by Welsh Government interventions is safeguarding economic activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“It was particularly encouraging to see that some businesses were using support to develop innovative responses and gain new opportunities, even at the height of the pandemic.”
Future EIW research will deepen the investigation of the effectiveness of Welsh Government interventions to support businesses in Wales which have been impacted by the pandemic. The third bespoke report will examine survey data in respect of ERF Phases 3-7 and will be available during the autumn of 2022.