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Brussels, 04 June 2010

45% of Europeans would like to be their own boss if …

45% of all Europeans would like to be their own boss if they could. Compared to the US where 55% of the population would like to be self-employed this figure is however still low. Yet while the preference for self-employment has significantly decreased in the US (by 6 points since 2007) it remained stable for Europe. One of the reasons for the higher US figures could be that 73% of all US citizens but only 49% of the people in the EU declare that they have a good opinion of entrepreneurs. The aim of the survey is to have a better understanding of entrepreneurship, to identify the reasons which encourage people to become entrepreneurs and to find out which obstacles exist. The results of the 2009 survey will help the Commission in the shaping of its policy-making. For the first time the survey includes countries from Asia (China, Japan, South Korea).

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "The entrepreneurial potential in Europe is not fully exploited: 45% of all Europeans would like to become their own boss if they could, but only an average of 10% is actually self-employed today. If we could raise this percentage, we could have millions of new innovative and creative enterprises which would rejuvenate Europe’s economic basis, make it more robust, more job-generating and more resilient to stormy economic times”.

Entrepreneurial attitudes are different in Europe, the US and Asia: Chinese people have the strongest preference for self-employment (71%), Japanese people the weakest (39%). In the US entrepreneurs enjoy a good reputation. 73% of US citizens questioned in this survey said that they have a favourable image of entrepreneurs. In Europe at least about half of the population (49%) has a favourable image of entrepreneurs.

The preference for self-employment remained stable: As in 2007 45% of all Europeans would like to be self-employed. 49% say that they would prefer working as an employee. In the USA the preference for self-employment has decreased from 61% to 55%. A rather high share of Chinese citizens (71%) declared that they would rather be self-employed than working as an employee (28%).

Large differences between Member States concerning self-employment: Cyprus and Greece show results clearly above the EU average and even above the US. In Slovakia, Belgium and Denmark, only one third of the population or less declares any interest for being an entrepreneur.

Men and young people express a stronger preference for self–employment than women or older people. Growing up in an entrepreneur family and living in an urban area promote the desire for self-employment.

Attitudes towards entrepreneurs are ambivalent: job creators, who develop new products and services, or exploiters, who only think about their own wallet? In comparison with other professions entrepreneurs are considered in a rather positive way within the EU.

The lack of finance has traditionally been the most important reason that holds European starters back (24%). Yet a sudden inheritance would not make starting a business attractive for many Europeans. However, it has to be considered that there are wide differences between countries.

The personalities of people with business experience are more willing to take risks, enjoy competition more. Business people are also more confident to master difficult tasks and count less on their luck to solve problems.

On this survey

Over the last years the European Commission has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in the EU Member States. Similar Eurobarometer surveys have been published in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 and 2007. This year’s Eurobarometer survey covers 36 countries – the EU27, Croatia and Turkey, the United States, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland) and for the first time three Asian countries, i.e. Japan, South Korea and China. Around 26.000 people were interviewed by telephone for this survey. Results are weighted according to country size and are representative for the countries.


Flash Eurobarometer on Entrepreneurship 2009

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