It’s been a huge year for Australian small businesses. We’ve seen the government and the wider business community pledge to pay small businesses faster and, as recently as April, we saw the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman commit to finding easier ways for small businesses to obtain capital.

With the new federal budget just around the corner, it’s time to consider the support our small businesses need to continue to survive, grow and prosper.

Operating as a small business in 2018 comes with considerable challenges: we are living in a world of global giants and major local chains challenging the markets that small businesses have typically been strongest in. There are more small businesses than ever in Australia, yet the risks they face are more powerful than before.

We launched Xero Small Business Insights last year to provide a snapshot of the health of Australia’s small business economy. Looking at the aggregated and anonymised data of hundreds of thousands of our Australian subscribers, we analysed some of the key performance metrics for businesses — from cash flow to employment and global trade — to give an in-depth, up-to-date picture of how small businesses are performing.

By most accounts, our small business sector remains strong.

Small business employees, across all industries, are seeing growth in their pay packets. In this report, we’ll look at the sectors that saw the greatest wage growth, and compare how metropolitan and regional small-businesses employees fared. We’ll also hone in on the industries where the wage gap between the sexes is narrowing most dramatically.

The attention of the sector now turns to the impending 2018-19 federal budget. Given that small businesses employ nearly half our workforce and generate a fifth of Australian GDP, supportive policies are crucial for the success of the sector, and the economy, as a whole.

The focus of the 2017-18 budget — through tax concessions and the continued asset write-off — was on boosting productivity and incentivising small business spending. Inside this report, we look at how small businesses have fared under Australian government policies over the last 12 months, the growing potential of the small business sector and what is needed (and wanted) in the upcoming budget to continue to build a thriving small business economy.

If you’d like more information, download the full May report here.