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Brussels, 04 June 2010

European attitudes to Entrepreneurship

The Flash Eurobarometer "Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond" seeks to obtain information about public attitudes on various issues leading to entrepreneurship, such as entrepreneurial education, risk-taking, start-ups, obstacles to entrepreneurship and business failures. It also compares these attitudes with other countries, such as the US, China, Japan and South Korea.

1. Preference for self-employment stable

  • In Europe 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%. However the share of US citizens who would like to be an employee has remained stable. The group who could not express a preference has increased notably, maybe reflecting uncertainty in the face of the economic crisis.

  • A rather high share of Chinese citizens (71%) declared that they would rather be self-employed than working as an employee (28%).

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

2. Large differences between Member States concerning the desirability for self-employment

  • Cyprus and Greece show results clearly above the EU average and even above the US.

  • In Slovakia, Belgium, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Sweden only one third of the population or less declares any interest for being an entrepreneur.

3. Socio-demographic reasons for the preferred employee status

  • Men generally express a stronger preference for self–employment (51%) than women (39%).

  • Young people are more inclined to start a business than older citizens. 52% of those aged 15-24 prefer self-employment compared with 47% of those between 25 and 39 and 46% of those between the age of 40 and 54.

  • A good education promotes the desire for self-employment. Also living in an urban area increases the inclination for self-employment.

  • The occupation of the parents is a strong indicator for the occupational preferences of the children. Of those whose parents were self-employed 56% would like to be self-employed too. If at least one parent was elf-employed the ratio is 50%. Where both parents were employees only 42% of the children declare a preference for self-employment.

4. Marked differences in the reasons for the employee preference

  • In the EU (but also in Japan and South Korea) the preference for being an employee is mainly motivated by considerations of stability (regular income, stable employment relation) and by the generally agreeable employment conditions (working hours, social protection). External constrains or the lacks of resources (finance, skills, business idea) are relative minor reasons.

  • In the US all the above reasons are relatively minor whereas in China it is clearly the lack of resources that keeps people in the employee status.

5. Ambivalent attitudes towards entrepreneurs: job creators or exploiters?

  • All over the world people largely agree that entrepreneurs are job creators and that they develop new products and services which benefit the whole society.

  • Yet, the image of entrepreneurs has declined. 54% of all Europeans believe that entrepreneurs only think about their own wallet and 49% believe that entrepreneurs exploit other peoples work. In 2007 the values were clearly lower (45% and 42%).

  • The status of entrepreneurs varies greatly between different countries. In the Scandinavian countries it is very positive (e.g. 83% of Danes and 78% of Finns had a favourable opinion about entrepreneurs) whereas in Eastern Europe the entrepreneurs' reputation is generally lower (only 26% of Hungarians and 33% of Poles have a favourable opinion about them).

  • In comparison with other professions entrepreneurs are considered in a rather positive way. 49% of all Europeans declare having a good opinion about entrepreneurs. Only the liberal professions (lawyers, doctors, architects etc.) enjoyed greater esteem (58%). Significantly lower is the regard for civil servants (35%), top-managers (28%), bankers (25%) or politicians (12%).

6. Does a lack of finance hold European starters back?

  • Only 28.1% of all Europeans think it feasible to start a business within the next five years (in 2007 the figure was still at 31.4%; in the US it has even increased from 43.5% to 48.7%.

  • The lack of finance has traditionally been the most important reason stated for this situation (24% of those sceptical about a start-up mentioned it).

  • Yet a sudden inheritance would not make starting a business attractive for many Europeans. When asked what they would do with an unexpected and significant amount of money only 14% of Europeans would start a business and 16% would spent it on nice things they always wanted to have. 30% would just save it and 31% would buy a house (or repay a mortgage).

  • Again there are considerable differences between countries. 42% of Bulgarians would open a business (also 41% in Turkey and 41% in China). A rather big part of the population would just spend it in Malta (28%) and Latvia (27%). 41% of Norwegians and 39% of Estonians would buy a house/repay a mortgage. The most cautious people who would save the money appear to live in the US (48%), South Korea (44%) and Slovenia (40%).

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

7. Are entrepreneurs a different kind of people?

  • For the first time the Flash Eurobarometer on entrepreneurship analyses not only entrepreneurial attitudes (e.g. preferences for self-employment) and opinions (e.g. reasons that make self-employment difficult) but also character traits and personality characteristics.

  • The fear of bankruptcy is one of the largest obstacles for many people to start a business. Nevertheless 65% of Europeans declare that they are generally willing to take risks. In the US about 82% of those questioned are willing to take risks. Relatively risk-loving Europeans are Romanians and Irish (73%). Rather risk-averse are Hungarians (43%).

  • US citizens are also most willing to compete with others (77%). In the EU only 55% of the population like competition, in Japan only 29%. 93% of all Cypriots declare themselves to be inventive people with ideas, compared to a European average of 81% and a US figure of 87%.

  • Finns (94%), Danes (93%) and Swedes (90%) are particularly optimistic about their future – comapred to an EU average of 75%. Rather pessimistic are Hungarians (61%) and Bulgarians (62%).

  • There are some noticeable differences in the personalities of people with business experience and those without. Somebody who is running a business or did so in the past is generally more willing to take risks, enjoys competition more and believes himself to be inventive. Business people are also more confident to master difficult taks and count less on their luck to solve problems.

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

8. Entrepreneurial attitudes in Europe, the US and Asia

  • Chinese people have the strongtest preference for self-employment (71%), Japanese people the weakest (39%). Similarly, Chinese think it is quite possible to become one’s own boss within five years (49%). In Japan only 12% consider this career option possible.

  • A higher ratio of Chinese (40%) than Americans (38%) declare that they have first-hand experiences in starting a business. In Europe and Japan these figures are rather low (22% and 20%), even lower than in South Korea where 31% claim to have business experience.

  • 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. In China the ratio is only 40%, in Japan and Korea even lower.

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

On this survey

Over the last years the Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in the EU Member States comparing data with those of non-European countries, especially the United 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. The results are weighted according to country size and are representative for the countries.

See also IP/10/689

More information

Flash Eurobarometer on Entrepreneurship 2009

European Small Business portal

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