Research Finds Family Business Accounts for 64% of Irish Businesses

By Gemma Creagh - Last update

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First-of-its-kind research from DCU National Centre for Family Business has found that there are 160,700 family businesses in Ireland, accounting for 64% of Irish businesses.  Irish family businesses were also found to employ 938,000 people, approximately 2/3 of the working population in Ireland.  The research was endorsed by European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan.

Irish Family Business by Numbers is the first piece of research to identify the number of businesses in Ireland, the total number of people employed in Irish family business and the sectors where these types of businesses are most numerous.


A family business is one where

  • One family holds more than 50% of voting shares, and/or
  • One family supplies a significant proportion of the senior management and effectively controls the business, and/or
  • A family or a family relationship influences the enterprise and the latter is perceived to be a family business

The report is based on 2016 census data and will be updated next year when new census data becomes available.

Other findings

The report found that more than 90% of these businesses in Ireland are micro enterprises, employing between one and nine people.  Small and medium-sized enterprises (employing between 10 and 249 people) account for just 8% of Irish family businesses. These 12,300 SME family businesses employ 380,000 people.

The report also found 137,100 family farms in Ireland. These represent 99.7% of all operating farms in the country. Outside of agriculture, the greatest representation of these businesses in Ireland is in the service and distribution sector (112,400), and building and construction (34,000).

Report author Professor Colm O’Gorman said

“Good data leads to good policy. We know that family businesses behave differently to other ownership forms. It is essential that policy makers and those involved in supporting businesses have good data on these businesses – and as a starting point- data on the extent and nature of family businesses in Ireland. This report is just the beginning of our intention to develop robust data on Irish family businesses.”

DCU National Centre for Family Business Director Eric Clinton said

“Family businesses are at the heart of Irish economic and social life. You need only look at the names of the sponsors on a GAA jersey in rural Ireland to see the significance of family business at a regional level. That contribution is perhaps not recognised in the same way as larger multinationals based in Ireland. This report demonstrates that family business is the dominant business form in Ireland. While family businesses are very different in their nature and size to larger organisations, their contribution at regional level cannot be underestimated, as they support local economies and communities across the country. At DCU National Centre for Family Business, we want family businesses to have continued prosperity, to become multigenerational and we need to know more about the unique challenges that they face in order to support them. This research is key to achieving that, as now have an accurate data set from which to continue to measure impact, identify their unique needs as family businesses and ensure the family business sector is recognised as the bedrock of the Irish economy.”

European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan said

“I welcome the DCU National Centre for Family Business report as it quantifies the scale of family businesses in Ireland, creating a useful new data set and demonstrating that family business is the dominant form of business organisation in Ireland.

Taking this through to the European context, this report compares Irish family business levels to those reported across the European Union, which can be as high as 71% in countries such as the Netherlands and Finland. It demonstrates that family businesses are highly represented across the European Union.”

About this research

To determine the number of these types of businesses operating in Ireland the report draws from data collected in the 2016 Census. The proportion of family enterprises in each sector of the economy was extracted from the CSO databases. The following sectors were analysed; 1) Service and Distribution, 2) Building and Construction, 3) Industry and 4) Financial and Insurance. Farming and agricultural enterprises were analysed separately in line with CSO sectoral categories.

About the NCFB

Dublin City University’s National Centre for Family Business is the first research, engagement and educational centre of its kind on the island of Ireland. Established in 2013, the NCFB mission is to empower innovative Irish businesses to embrace their transgenerational potential.

Gemma Creagh

Free Webinar – Content Marketing During Covid-19
Postgraduate Qualifications in Journalism and Public Relations at Griffith College


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