Half of private sector may not survive COVID-19 crisis

© Hollandse Hoogte / Stijn Rademaker
Many non-financial companies in the Netherlands fear for their survival in case of a protracted coronavirus crisis. Nearly half of all entrepreneurs in the non-financial private sector expect their livelihood to be at risk if the crisis lasts more than six months. If the crisis should last longer than twelve months, 60 percent expect bankruptcy of their company in its present form. A large majority of entrepreneurs foresee declines in their turnover and workforce over Q2, caused by the coronavirus crisis. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK), the Economic Institute for Construction and Housing (EIB), the Dutch Organisation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MKB-Nederland) and the Dutch Employers’ Organisation (VNO-NCW) on the basis of a survey on the anticipated effects of the coronavirus crisis which was conducted at the beginning of April 2020.
One outcome of this survey is that over 15 percent of entrepreneurs expected being unable to maintain the continuity of business operations in case the coronavirus crisis lasted longer than two months; 31 percent of entrepreneurs did so in case the crisis extended beyond three to six months. A large number of entrepreneurs (31 percent) said they were unable to indicate the maximum duration of the crisis in terms of business survival.

Smaller companies most pessimistic

Over 22 percent of the smaller companies (5 to 20 employees) foresee bankruptcy of the company in its present form if the crisis lasts longer than two months. Should the crisis last longer than six months, 56 percent of the smaller-sized businesses fear for their survival. Larger companies (50 employees or more) expect to be at a lower risk.

Business continuity in case of a protracted COVID-19 crisis, April 2020
Handhaving continuïteit bedrijfMaximum 2 months (% of entrepreneurs)3-6 months (% of entrepreneurs)6-12 months (% of entrepreneurs)12 months or more (% of entrepreneurs)Impossible to say (% of entrepreneurs)
5 or more employees15.531.111.710.431.3
5 to 20 employees22.134.19.07.327.6
20 to 50 employees18.135.310.28.028.5
50 to 100 employees15.532.011.710.630.1
100 employees or more8.925.614.714.436.3

Worst outlook in the accommodation and food services sector

There are fears about business continuity across the sectors. At the beginning of April, the most pessimistic outlook was seen in the accommodation and food services sector. Nearly 36 percent believe they can sustain two months of crisis at the most, while 33 percent give themselves three to six months maximum. Only 5 percent say they are able to survive a crisis lasting more than twelve months. If the crisis should last longer thans six months, doubt prevails among a majority of entrepreneurs in the automotive and motorcycle industry, the construction sector and the culture, sport and recreation sector. Entrepreneurs in real estate renting and trade are least concerned about business continuity in the coronavirus crisis: only 4 percent believe they may survive no more than two months. In retail trade, half of all entrepreneurs are unable to estimate their chance of survival.

Business continuity in case of a protracted COVID-19 crisis, April 2020
Handhaving continuiteit bedrijfMaximum 2 months (% of entrepreneurs)3-6 months (% of entrepreneurs)6-12 months (% of entrepreneurs)12 months or more (% of entrepreneurs)Impossible to say (% of entrepreneurs)
Accommodation and food services35.632.77519.6
Automotive trade and repair24.635.615.5519.4
Construction24.435.418.47.314.4
Culture, sport and recreation13.745.212.54.324.3
Wholesale trade9.939.312.211.227.4
Business services15.433.212.39.130
Manufacturing14.427.911.69.936.2
Transportation and storage11.123.79.618.237.4
Retail trade8.923.96.99.450.9
Real estate renting and trade4.112.19.539.734.6

Three-quarters expect turnover decrease

Around 75 percent of entrepreneurs expect their turnover to decline in Q2 while nearly 44 percent expect this decline to exceed 20 percent. Only 6 percent of all entrepreneurs expect turnover to increase. Those entrepreneurs who foresee turnover increase are mainly found in retail trade (27 percent) and transport and storage (8 percent). Aside from lower turnover, a large majority expect a decrease in staff over the second quarter of this year. Almost one-quarter of businesses expect they will have to reduce staff numbers by more than 20 percent as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
At the beginning of April, turnover decline was expected by over 90 percent of entrepreneurs in accommodation and food services, automotive and motorcycle trade, and culture, sport and recreation on account of COVID-19. The vast majority of businesses expect a decline in turnover of more than 20 percent. Anticipated job loss for Q2 is highest in accommodation and food services with 85 percent facing downsizing; nearly 60 percent of this group expect this downsizing to exceed 20 percent. In automotive and motorcycle trade, and in culture, sport and recreation, over 60 percent of entrepreneurs anticipate staff reductions.

Estimated impact of COVID-19 crisis on Q2 2020
BedrijfstakDown 20% (% of entrepreneurs)Down 10-20% (% of entrepreneurs)Down max. 10% (% of entrepreneurs)Stable (% of entrepreneurs)Up (% of entrepreneurs)
Expected turnover change
Totaal 43.519.512.818.55.7
Acc. and food services90.92.51.03.62.0
Automotive trade and repair77.211.65.05.20.9
Culture, sport and recreation76.17.47.08.90.6
Wholesale 47.023.911.913.53.7
Business services42.823.116.915.51.8
Transportation and storage55.517.06.812.38.4
Manufacturing43.420.111.520.15.0
Construction20.931.522.224.01.4
Retail trade34.29.84.824.326.9
Real estate renting and trade19.88.519.750.21.8
Expected employment
Total 23.117.418.138.23.2
Acc. and food services58.516.69.513.42.4
Business services26.618.320.732.01.3
Automotive trade and repair26.125.314.134.40.0
Culture, sport and recreation38.611.313.036.91.1
Transportation and storage22.619.819.930.110.7
Construction14.217.028.938.67.6
Manufacturing24.118.814.140.62.0
Wholesale trade19.318.916.943.80.3
Retail trade14.715.39.949.42.4
Real estate renting and trade8.711.714.165.30.2


The findings were obtained from the Business Survey Netherlands (COEN). The COEN Business Survey Netherlands is conducted among companies with 5 or more employees in the non-financial private sector. This includes all companies except banks, insurance companies and pension funds. The COEN Netherlands Business Survey is a joint research project of CBS, KVK, EIB, MKB Netherlands and VNO-NCW, with support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. The objective of the cooperation is to gather more complete information on the non-financial private sector while reducing the administrative burden. The data were collected during the month of April. These supplementary data on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis are being released in advance for the sake of timeliness. The regular news release on Business confidence for Q2 2020 is due out on 15 May.

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