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This topic covers births, deaths and survivals of businesses. There are three main datasets: the Office for National Statistics business demography, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) VAT registrations and de-registrations, and the Insolvency Service quarterly insolvency statistical press release that records new cases of corporate insolvency procedures and, separately, bankrupts with trading debts.


Business Demography
Department: Office for National Statistics
Births, deaths and survivals of UK enterprises. The active stock of businesses is also shown, so that birth and death rates can be calculated.
Business Population Estimates for the UK and Regions
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
This publication provides the only official government statistics that attempt to the estimate the total number of UK private sector businesses in the UK and their contribution to employment and turnover. Also provided is an estimate of the total number of businesses in the UK whole economy. The publication supercedes the BIS 'Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Statistics for the UK and Regions'.
Business start-ups and closures: VAT registrations and de-registrations
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Presents data on the number of enterprises registering and de-registering for VAT. The stock of VAT-registered enterprises is also included.
Company Winding up and Bankruptcy Petition Statistics, England and Wales
Department: Justice
The quarterly release presents statistics on insolvency proceedings issued in the county courts and High Court for both individuals (bankruptcy petitions) and businesses (company winding up petitions) in England and Wales. Note that these figures represent court activity and not the actual numbers of individual or business insolvencies. The Insolvency Service publishes parallel quarterly statistics on this issue.
Insolvency Statistics
Department: Business, Innovation and Skills
Presents statistics on quarterly insolvencies for the UK include headline figures for England and Wales.
Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies
Department: Office for National Statistics
Latest data on domestic and overseas acquisitions, disposals and mergers.
Regional Economic Indicators
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Regional Economic Indicators examine regional differences within the UK economy. These are discussed via an ongoing series of articles focusing on the measurement of economic performance, welfare, productivity and the drivers of productivity across the UK regions. As well as providing the latest analysis of the relevant data, the articles examine the issues surrounding measurement at the regional level, in particular seeking to clarify the indicators best suited for different uses.

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Business Demography

Enterprise birth, death and survivals. This dataset was introduced for the first time in 2008, and follows the methodology set out in Eurostat/OECD Business Demography Manual. The data contain birth, deaths and survivals by industry and geography.

VAT Registration and De-registration

This is available for the last time in 2008. In future, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) business demography dataset will be the main source of business birth and deaths. The VAT registration dataset provides details of business start-ups, closures, stock and net change from 1994 to 2007. Data are available for the UK, regions, unitary/local authorities and parliamentary constituencies, as well as detailed industries at the UK level.


It is important to note that much of the insolvency outputs fall outside the scope of this topic, because they relate to personal data and not businesses.

The quarterly insolvency statistical press release records new cases of corporate insolvency procedures and, separately, bankrupts with trading debts. Headline figures are for England and Wales, but statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland are also included in the detailed tables. The press release covers the last ten years, with longer series available to complement these.

Recent quarters' statistics are broken down by industrial sectors according to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). The data are sourced from the administrative systems of the Insolvency Service and Companies House executive agencies.

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Technical Data

Business Demography

A joint Eurostat/OECD Manual on Business Demography has been produced that defines and sets out the broad methodology that should be used to produce business demography data.

The starting point for demography is the concept of a population of active businesses in a reference year. These are defined as businesses that had either turnover or employment at any time during the reference period. Births and deaths are then identified by comparing active populations for different years.

VAT Registration and De-registration

There is no requirement for all new businesses to notify the government when they start trading. Therefore, available data on VAT registration and de-registration is used as a proxy for business start-up and closure activity. Less than half of the estimated business population in the UK is registered for VAT, so this publication does miss some start-up and closure activity that may occur below the VAT thresholds. However, it provides a useful guide to the trends over time in start-up and closure activity, and also provides detailed geographical and sectoral data.

Because of lags in some activity being notified to HM Revenue & Customs and appearing on the business register (IDBR), adjustments are made to the administrative data to take account of this. Because of the new Business Demography methodology, which is more inclusive in terms of identifying new births and deaths, the publication released on 28 November 2008 will be the last in this series.


The insolvency statistics publication includes all individual insolvencies (bankruptcies and individual voluntary arrangements), most of which relate to over-indebted consumers (not small businesses).

Corporate insolvencies and trading-related bankruptcies are sometimes referred to as ’business failures’ and, as one element of business closures as a whole, they represent changes to the business population.

The quarterly insolvency statistics press release and related publications may be found on the Insolvency Service website.

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  • Births

    A birth is defined as a business that was present in year t, but did not exist in year t-1 or t-2. Births are identified by making a comparison of annual active population files and identifying those present in the latest file, but not the two previous ones. Births do not include entry into the population as a result of mergers, break-ups, split offs or other restructuring.

  • Deaths

    A death is defined as a business that was on the active file in year t but was no longer present on the active file in year t+1 or t+2. In order to produce more timely statistics, the UK method diverges from the Eurostat manual at this point. The Eurostat manual requires a check to be made against the two years following a death to identify and remove any reactivations. (Following the Eurostat methodology would mean a delay of up to three years to allow checks to be made before publishing business death data). The UK Business Demography publication contains a preliminary death indicator, which includes an adjustment for estimated reactivations. This estimate is subject to revision. Inclusion of this adjustment allows UK users access to more timely data.

  • Reactivations

    Reactivations occur where a business becomes dormant for a period of less than two years, then recommences activity in a manner that complies with a definition of continuity. If the definition of continuity is not met, for example, when a business recommences activity but at a different location and with a different activity, this would be considered as a death followed by a birth. There are a number of reasons why a business may be dormant for a period reflecting the underlying administrative processes.

  • Survivals

    A business is deemed to have survived if having been a birth in year t or having survived to year t; it is active in terms of employment and/or turnover in any part of year t+1. A business is considered to have survived if it is active in any part of the survival year under consideration. Survival data are presented for businesses that have survived for up to five years. It is important to note that a business that is active in year t could also have been a birth in year t.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

IDBR Analysis Service

Email: IDBRDAS@ons.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 456902

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