MAJORITY or 64% of small businesses currently operating on the social media platform Facebook said they were optimistic they would grow despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“True to character, of those Philippine micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operational on Facebook, 64% are saying that they are optimistic about the future of their business and are stepping up to take their business forward despite the setbacks of the pandemic,” Facebook Philippines said in statement e-mailed to reporters on July 23, citing its latest study on the state of small businesses.

Facebook’s “State of Small Business Report” covers 30,000 small entrepreneurs and employees in over 50 countries, including over 100 respondents in the Philippines. The survey was conducted from May 28 to May 31 in partnership with the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“The survey captures the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on MSMEs business operations, their financial performance, and the actions that they have taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic throughout the world,” Facebook Philippines said.

The survey showed 35% of Philippine MSMEs had reduced their workforce due to the pandemic crisis.

Facebook Philippines added 46% of MSMEs that remain operational on the social media platform reported a decline in sales, with some “by 50% or more compared to last year.”

“The respondents also noted that they are expecting cash flow to continue being a challenge over the next few months,” it added.

The Finance department has said about 436,000 of the country’s 1.6 million small businesses were forced to halt operations amid the government-imposed strict lockdown from mid-March to May. One million of them operated with a skeletal workforce.

More than 99% of the roughly one million business establishments in the country in 2018 were MSMEs, according to the Trade department. The smallest of them accounted for 88% of the total, or a little more than 887,000 establishments.

MSMEs had created 5.7 million jobs or 63.19% of the country’s new jobs in 2018. A fifth of the country’s MSMEs are in Metro Manila, which generated more than a quarter of the total jobs.

Facebook Philippines said the pandemic has forced many small business owners to shift their operations to the platform, noting that “52% or more” of MSMEs on Facebook reported “25% or more” of their sales in April were made digitally.

“Last year, we launched Facebook Community Boost events across different cities in the Philippines to support MSMEs and communities in their digital journey. This year we’re back with a completely online webinar series, Boost with Facebook. The objective of this series is to help MSMEs quickly recover and help businesses build resilience — so they can be well-equipped to get started in their online transformation journey and navigate challenges in the new normal,” Facebook Philippines Country Director John Rubio was quoted as saying in the statement. — Arjay L. Balinbin