SME Productivity, Working Conditions and Resilience

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) provide a significant portion of employment in most countries. At the same time, SMEs are more susceptible to the triple challenge of low productivity, poor working conditions and high vulnerability to economic, political, and environmental shocks.

First, productivity and job quality in SMEs tend to lag compared to that of larger enterprises, with the gap persistently growing due to a range of internal and external factors. In addition to that, SMEs also tend to be more vulnerable to economic, political and environmental disruptions as they often lack the resources and resilience capacities to ensure business continuity and recovery.

The ILO offers a range of approaches and tools to promote productivity, decent work and enterprise resilience with an emphasis on sustainable enterprise development.

What's new

  1. ILO, International Trade Centre and Government of Lesotho team up to strengthen SME competitiveness, productivity and decent work

    03 April 2024

    Driving investment and export growth in Lesotho’s textiles and clothing sector, this latest project incorporates SCORE Training as a key component.

  2. ILO and Government of Flanders join forces to strengthen productivity in South Africa

    11 March 2024

    SCORE Training is set for implementation in SMEs within the clothing and textiles manufacturing sector over the course of the year.

  3. ILO promotes resource efficiency, clean production and circularity in Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius

    11 March 2024

    SCORE4Climate training module launches in SMEs across different sectors and sub-sectors, integrating environmental considerations into production practices.

Our work

The SME Unit supports ILO's work on ensuring recovery that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient, and prioritizes productivity growth, decent work, job creation and enterprise development. Our four key areas of work are:

  1. Productivity Ecosystems for Decent Work

    The relationship between productivity and decent work is a key factor in discussions on improving living standards and economic growth. Productivity growth and decent work are linked, although the nature of this link is complex. With its Productivity Ecosystems for Decent Work approach, the ILO proposes a holistic and systemic approach to strengthen productivity and decent work drivers across national, sector, and enterprise levels.

  2. Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises

    SCORE is a training and in-factory consulting programme that draws on lean manufacturing and kaizen best practices to promote workplace cooperation and productivity in small and medium enterprises. SCORE is being implemented in 30+ countries and has been delivered to over 3,100 SMEs globally, representing a workforce of over 530,000 workers who have benefited from enterprise improvements, including efforts to develop a culture of respect, trust and communication in the workplace.

  3. Enterprise Resilience

    In line with the ILO Decent Work Agenda and the UN Build Back Better Approach, the ILO SME Unit focuses on unlocking the potential of creating better jobs in SMEs, alongside identifying their needs and building their capacity to respond to crises, mitigate job losses and lay the foundation for a sustainable and resilient recovery.