ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

86th Session
Geneva, June 1998




Recommendation 189


adopts this seventeenth day of June of the year one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight the following Recommendation which may be cited as the Job Creation in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Recommendation, 1998.


1. Members should, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, define small and medium-sized enterprises by reference to such criteria as may be considered appropriate, taking account of national social and economic conditions, it being understood that this flexibility should not preclude Members from arriving at commonly agreed definitions for data collection and analysis purposes.

2. Members should adopt measures which are appropriate to national conditions and consistent with national practice in order to recognize and to promote the fundamental role that small and medium-sized enterprises can play as regards:

(a) the promotion of full, productive and freely chosen employment;

(b) greater access to income-earning opportunities and wealth creation leading to productive and sustainable employment;

(c) sustainable economic growth and the ability to react with flexibility to changes;

(d) increased economic participation of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in society;

(e) increased domestic savings and investment;

(f) training and development of human resources;

(g) balanced regional and local development;

(h) provision of goods and services which are better adapted to local market needs;

(i) access to improved quality of work and working conditions which may contribute to a better quality of life, as well as allow large numbers of people to have access to social protection;

(j) stimulating innovation, entrepreneurship, technology development and research;

(k) access to domestic and international markets; and

(l) the promotion of good relations between employers and workers.

3. In order to promote the fundamental role of small and medium-sized enterprises referred to in Paragraph 2, Members should adopt appropriate measures and enforcement mechanisms to safeguard the interests of workers in such enterprises by providing them with the basic protection available under other relevant instruments.

4. The provisions of this Recommendation apply to all branches of economic activity and all types of small and medium-sized enterprises, irrespective of the form of ownership (for example, private and public companies, cooperatives, partnerships, family enterprises, and sole proprietorships).


5. In order to create an environment conducive to the growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises, Members should:

(a) adopt and pursue appropriate fiscal, monetary and employment policies to promote an optimal economic environment (as regards, in particular, inflation, interest and exchange rates, taxation, employment and social stability);

(b) establish and apply appropriate legal provisions as regards, in particular, property rights, including intellectual property, location of establishments, enforcement of contracts, fair competition as well as adequate social and labour legislation;

(c) improve the attractiveness of entrepreneurship by avoiding policy and legal measures which disadvantage those who wish to become entrepreneurs.

6. The measures referred to in Paragraph 5 should be complemented by policies for the promotion of efficient and competitive small and medium-sized enterprises able to provide productive and sustainable employment under adequate social conditions. To this end, Members should consider policies that:

(1) create conditions which:

(2) remove constraints to the development and growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, arising in particular from:

(3) include specific measures and incentives aimed at assisting and upgrading the informal sector to become part of the organized sector.

7. With a view to the formulation of such policies Members should, where appropriate:

(1) collect national data on the small and medium-sized enterprise sector, covering inter alia quantitative and qualitative aspects of employment, while ensuring that this does not result in undue administrative burdens for small and medium-sized enterprises;

(2) undertake a comprehensive review of the impact of existing policies and regulations on small and medium-sized enterprises, with particular attention to the impact of structural adjustment programmes on job creation;

(3) review labour and social legislation, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, to determine whether:

8. In times of economic difficulties, governments should seek to provide strong and effective assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises and their workers.

9. In formulating these policies, Members:

(1) may consult, in addition to the most representative organizations of employers and workers, other concerned and competent parties as they deem appropriate;

(2) should take into account other policies in such areas as fiscal and monetary matters, trade and industry, employment, labour, social protection, gender equality, occupational safety and health and capacity-building through education and training;

(3) should establish mechanisms to review these policies, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, and to update them.


10. Members should adopt measures, drawn up in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, to create and strengthen an enterprise culture which favours initiatives, enterprise creation, productivity, environmental consciousness, quality, good labour and industrial relations, and adequate social practices which are equitable. To this end, Members should consider:

(1) pursuing the development of entrepreneurial attitudes, through the system and programmes of education, entrepreneurship and training linked to job needs and the attainment of economic growth and development, with particular emphasis being given to the importance of good labour relations and the multiple vocational and managerial skills needed by small and medium-sized enterprises;

(2) seeking, through appropriate means, to encourage a more positive attitude towards risk-taking and business failure by recognizing their value as a learning experience while at the same time recognizing their impact on both entrepreneurs and workers;

(3) encouraging a process of lifelong learning for all categories of workers and entrepreneurs;

(4) designing and implementing, with full involvement of the organizations of employers and workers concerned, awareness campaigns to promote:


11. In order to enhance the growth, job-creation potential and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, consideration should be given to the availability and accessibility of a range of direct and indirect support services for them and their workers, to include:

(a) business pre-start-up, start-up and development assistance;

(b) business plan development and follow-up;

(c) business incubators;

(d) information services, including advice on government policies;

(e) consultancy and research services;

(f) managerial and vocational skills enhancement;

(g) promotion and development of enterprise-based training;

(h) support for training in occupational safety and health;

(i) assistance in upgrading the literacy, numeracy, computer competencies and basic education levels of managers and employees;

(j) access to energy, telecommunications and physical infrastructure such as water, electricity, premises, transportation and roads, provided directly or through private sector intermediaries;

(k) assistance in understanding and applying labour legislation, including provisions on workers' rights, as well as in human resources development and the promotion of gender equality;

(l) legal, accounting and financial services;

(m) support for innovation and modernization;

(n) advice regarding technology;

(o) advice on the effective application of information and communication technologies to the business process;

(p) access to capital markets, credit and loan guarantees;

(q) advice in finance, credit and debt management;

(r) export promotion and trade opportunities in national and international markets;

(s) market research and marketing assistance;

(t) assistance in product design, development and presentation;

(u) quality management, including quality testing and measurement;

(v) packaging services;

(w) environmental management services.

12. As far as possible, the support services referred to in Paragraph 11 should be designed and provided to ensure optimum relevance and efficiency through such means as:

(a) adapting the services and their delivery to the specific needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, taking into account prevailing economic, social and cultural conditions, as well as differences in terms of size, sector and stage of development;

(b) ensuring active involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises and the most representative organizations of employers and workers in the determination of the services to be offered;

(c) involving the public and private sector in the delivery of such services through, for example, organizations of employers and workers, semi-public organizations, private consultants, technology parks, business incubators and small and medium-sized enterprises themselves;

(d) decentralizing the delivery of services, thereby bringing them as physically close to small and medium-sized enterprises as possible;

(e) promoting easy access to an integrated range of effective services through "single window" arrangements or referral services;

(f) aiming towards self-sustainability for service providers through a reasonable degree of cost recovery from small and medium-sized enterprises and other sources, in such a manner as to avoid distorting the markets for such services and to enhance the employment creation potential of small and medium-sized enterprises;

(g) ensuring professionalism and accountability in the management of service delivery;

(h) establishing mechanisms for continuous monitoring, evaluation and updating of services.

13. Services should be designed to include productivity-enhancing and other approaches which promote efficiency and help small and medium-sized enterprises to sustain competitiveness in domestic and international markets, while at the same time improving labour practices and working conditions.

14. Members should facilitate access of small and medium-sized enterprises to finance and credit under satisfactory conditions. In this connection:

(1) credit and other financial services should as far as possible be provided on commercial terms to ensure their sustainability, except in the case of particularly vulnerable groups of entrepreneurs;

(2) supplementary measures should be taken to simplify administrative procedures, reduce transaction costs and overcome problems related to inadequate collateral by, for example, the creation of non-governmental financial retail agencies and development finance institutions addressing poverty alleviation;

(3) small and medium-sized enterprises may be encouraged to organize in mutual guarantee associations;

(4) the creation of venture capital and other organizations, specializing in assistance to innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, should be encouraged.

15. Members should consider appropriate policies to improve all aspects of employment in small and medium-sized enterprises by ensuring the non-discriminatory application of protective labour and social legislation.

16. Members should, in addition:

(1) facilitate, where appropriate, the development of organizations and institutions which can effectively support the growth and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. In this regard, consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers should be considered;

(2) consider adequate measures to promote cooperative linkages between small and medium-sized enterprises and larger enterprises. In this connection, measures should be taken to safeguard the legitimate interests of the small and medium-sized enterprises concerned and of their workers;

(3) consider measures to promote linkages between small and medium-sized enterprises to encourage the exchange of experience as well the sharing of resources and risks. In this connection, small and medium-sized enterprises might be encouraged to form structures such as consortia, networks and production and service cooperatives, taking into account the importance of the role of organizations of employers and workers;

(4) consider specific measures and incentives for persons aspiring to become entrepreneurs among selected categories of the population, such as women, long-term unemployed, persons affected by structural adjustment or restrictive and discriminatory practices, disabled persons, demobilized military personnel, young persons including graduates, older workers, ethnic minorities and indigenous and tribal peoples. The detailed identification of these categories should be carried out taking into account national socio-economic priorities and circumstances;

(5) consider special measures to improve communication and relations between government agencies and small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the most representative organizations of such enterprises, in order to improve the effectiveness of government policies aimed at job creation;

(6) encourage support for female entrepreneurship, recognizing the growing importance of women in the economy, through measures designed specifically for women who are or wish to become entrepreneurs.


17. Organizations of employers or workers should consider contributing to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in the following ways:

(a) articulating to governments the concerns of small and medium-sized enterprises or their workers, as appropriate;

(b) providing direct support services in such areas as training, consultancy, easier access to credit, marketing, advice on industrial relations and promoting linkages with larger enterprises;

(c) cooperating with national, regional and local institutions as well as with intergovernmental regional organizations which provide support to small and medium-sized enterprises in such areas as training, consultancy, business start-up and quality control;

(d) participating in councils, task forces and other bodies at national, regional and local levels established to deal with important economic and social issues, including policies and programmes, affecting small and medium-sized enterprises;

(e) promoting and taking part in the development of economically beneficial and socially progressive restructuring (by such means as retraining and promotion of self-employment) with appropriate social safety nets;

(f) participating in the promotion of exchange of experience and establishment of linkages between small and medium-sized enterprises;

(g) participating in the monitoring and analysis of social and labour-market issues affecting small and medium-sized enterprises, concerning such matters as terms of employment, working conditions, social protection and vocational training, and promoting corrective action as appropriate;

(h) participating in activities to raise quality and productivity, as well as to promote ethical standards, gender equality and non-discrimination;

(i) preparing studies on small and medium-sized enterprises, collecting statistical and other types of information relevant to the sector, including statistics disaggregated by gender and age, and sharing this information, as well as lessons of best practice, with other national and international organizations of employers and workers;

(j) providing services and advice on workers' rights, labour legislation and social protection for workers in small and medium-sized enterprises.

18. Small and medium-sized enterprises and their workers should be encouraged to be adequately represented, in full respect for freedom of association. In this connection, organizations of employers and workers should consider widening their membership base to include small and medium-sized enterprises.


19. Appropriate international cooperation should be encouraged in the following areas:

(a) establishment of common approaches to the collection of comparable data, to support policy-making;

(b) exchange of information, disaggregated by gender, age and other relevant variables, on best practices in terms of policies and programmes to create jobs and to raise the quality of employment in small and medium-sized enterprises;

(c) creation of linkages between national and international bodies and institutions that are involved in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, including organizations of employers and workers, in order to facilitate:

(d) international meetings and discussion groups on approaches to job creation through the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, including support for female entrepreneurship. Similar approaches for job creation and entrepreneurship will be helpful for disadvantaged and marginalized groups;

(e) systematic research in a variety of contexts and countries into key success factors for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises which are both efficient and capable of creating jobs providing good working conditions and adequate social protection;

(f) promotion of access by small and medium-sized enterprises and their workers to national and international databases on such subjects as employment opportunities, market information, laws and regulations, technology and product standards.

20. Members should promote the contents of this Recommendation with other international bodies. Members should also be open to cooperation with those bodies, where appropriate, when evaluating and implementing the provisions of this Recommendation, and take into consideration the prominent role played by the ILO in the promotion of job creation in small and medium-sized enterprises.

The foregoing is the authentic text of the Recommendation duly adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization during its Eighty-sixth Session which was held at Geneva and declared closed the 18 June 1998.

IN FAITH WHEREOF we have appended our signatures this nineteenth day of June 1998.

The President of the Conference


The Director-General of the International Labour Office,


Updated by VC. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.