Measures are needed to support small firms to tackle Ireland's unemployment rate, it has been claimed.
The Small Firms Association (SFA) believes the sector could create up to 20,000 jobs next year if Government policy is changed and if the environment is right.
AJ Noonan, SFA chairman, maintained small business could generate the growth needed to create jobs, overcome debt burden and deliver prosperity.
"Small business can lead the way in helping Ireland to recover faster and stronger," he said.
It wants Government to increase credit availability to SMEs and to suspend any additional employment costs in 2013.
Mr Noonan said despite the horrendous impact in the years since 2008, there are still 200,000 small firms in Ireland, employing 655,000 people and 12,000 new businesses being set up each year. "Tackling unemployment is undoubtedly a key challenge facing Ireland, and this needs to be reflected in the measures to support SMEs," he continued.
"However, if both Government and agencies are forthright in their ambition to create jobs then they must do everything to reduce the cost of employment in 2013.
"When employment costs rise small firms are less likely to take on new staff. The small business sector is the engine of the economy and it is vital that Government does not undermine its ability to drive growth and create jobs."
Elsewhere the AIB/Amarach business report revealed online sales account for 15% of total sales on average for Irish businesses right now, ranging as high as 21% among exporters. The survey asked senior decision makers in 265 Irish businesses their views on the Global economy in the year 2020.
More than half think a new type of business culture will emerge in Ireland that avoids the mistakes of the past and two thirds expect the Irish economy and their own business performance to be better in eight years time. Another one in 10 Irish businesses consider their current business structure to be completely appropriate for the future.