Brussels, 9 January 2013
37% of Europeans would like to be their own boss
The Flash Eurobarometer FL354 "Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond" details public attitudes to various issues related 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, India and Russia.
1. Self-employment vs. employee status
In 2012, 37% of Europeans surveyed said that they would like to be self-employed, while a majority (58%) would prefer to be an employee.
In 2009, 45% wanted to be self-employed, while 49% said that they would prefer working as an employee. This development, which is similar in China and the US, reflects the current economic situation with less promising business prospects and the increased wish for a secure employment.
Self-employment is generally more popular among non-EU respondents: This option is most popular in Turkey (82% vs. 15% who favour employment), followed by Brazil (63% vs. 33%), China (56% vs. 32%), Croatia (54% vs. 40%) and South Korea (53% vs. 46%). However, some non-EU countries are more in line with the EU results, notably Norway, where 73% of respondents favour employment and only 23% say they would rather be self-employed, as well as Switzerland (58% vs. 39%) and Israel (58% vs. 34%).
In the United States the preference to be an employee has notably increased from 37% to 46%.
Would you prefer to be your own boss? – Overview of attitudes in EU Member States
2. Large differences between Member States concerning the desirability for self-employment
Highest in Lithuania and Greece, lowest in Sweden and Finland: As in 2009, there are wide variations between individual EU Member States: in six EU countries, a relative majority of respondents say they would rather be self-employed than work as an employee, with an absolute majority giving this answer in two countries: Lithuania (58%) and Greece (50%). Self-employment is least popular in Sweden (22%), Finland (24%), Denmark (28%) and Slovenia (28%).
In 19 of the 27 countries, a majority of respondents say that they would prefer to be an employee, most strikingly in Sweden (74%) and Finland (73%). There is least interest in working as an employee in Lithuania (32%) and Bulgaria (40%).
3. Men and young people prefer self-employment
Men are more likely than women to prefer self-employment (by a margin of 42% to 33%), while women are more likely to prefer working as an employee (63% vs. 53%).
Younger respondents are more inclined to express a preference for self-employment: 45% of 15-24 year-olds say they would prefer to be self-employed, as opposed to 35-37% of people in the three older age groups.
4. What holds back the Europeans to starting up a business?
The fear of bankruptcy is one of the largest obstacles for many people to start a business: 43% of EU respondents say they would be afraid of the risk of going bankrupt (-6 points compared with 2009 survey), while 33% say that the risk of irregular income would make them afraid of setting up a business (-7 points).
Again there are considerable differences between countries: in three EU Member States, a majority of respondents say that they would be afraid of the possibility of going bankrupt if they were to start a business. Results range from Romania (56%) to Finland (23%). Spain (55%) is the only country where a majority of people say that they would fear the risk of losing their home or property; only 12% say this in Cyprus.
A large majority of EU respondents think that it is difficult to start one’s own business due to a lack of available financial support (79%) and due to the complexities of the administrative process (72%). Moreover 51% of EU respondents think that it is difficult to obtain sufficient information on how to start a business.
There are wide national differences on these questions. For example, 96% of people in Greece cite a lack of available financial support, whereas only 52% of people in Finland do so. And while 77% of respondents in Greece say it is difficult to obtain sufficient information, only 20% of respondents in the Netherlands complain about this.
The non-EU results are broadly in line with the EU results: at one end of the scale, 88% of people in both South Korea and Russia say that it is difficult to start one’s own business due to a lack of available financial support while, at the other end of the scale, just 56% of those in Norway say this. The proportion of people in the non-EU countries who agrees that it is difficult to obtain sufficient information ranges from 78% in China to 34% in Switzerland.
5. Key considerations when starting a business
In Europe 87% of the respondents who have started or taken over a business say that having an appropriate business idea was important to their decision to do so; 84% say that getting the necessary financial resources was important.
EU respondents stressed other important factors to their decision to start a business, as the contact with an appropriate business partner (68%), a role model (62%) and addressing an unmet social or ecological need (61%). Also dissatisfaction with their previous work situation was an important factor to 55% of people who started a business:
At country level, the issue of whether an appropriate business partner was important produced the widest variations, with results ranging from 90% in Hungary to 48% in Malta. The number of people who say that contact with an appropriate business partner was important to their decision increased in several non-EU countries, notably Norway (64%, +10 points). However, in Turkey (63%, -23 points) it declined considerably.
Whether a role model is needed also produced broad differences, ranging from 86% in Italy to 43% in Denmark. The non-EU data show a very similar picture. At one end of the scale, 87% of people in Brazil say that a role model was important to their decision to start a business, as do 84% in both China and South Korea; but less than half of the respondents say this is Russia (46%) and Norway (47%).
The proportion of respondents saying that addressing an unmet social or ecological need was important in their decision to start a business rose by 6 percentage points at EU level. In contrast, the non-EU data show that the number of people who say that addressing an unmet social or ecological need was important in their decision only increased in four countries, most strikingly in South Korea (89%, +18 points) and China (86%, +11 points). Elsewhere, this factor was regarded as being less important than in 2009, with the largest decline occurring in Japan (73%, -13 points).
The proportion of respondents who regard dissatisfaction with work as an important factor declined in 19 EU countries, with the largest falls in Slovakia (51%, -24 points) and Latvia (51%, -21 points). There was a similar pattern in the non-EU countries, with a range of increases and decreases. The largest upward evolutions occurred in South Korea (77%, +14 points) and China (74%, +9 points), while the most substantial negative changes were recorded in Turkey (54%, ‑21 points) and Japan (39%, -14 points).
6. Ambivalent attitudes towards entrepreneurs: job creators or exploiters?
A large majority of EU respondents agree that entrepreneurs are job creators (87%) and that they create new products and services which benefit the whole society (79%).
Yet, the image of entrepreneurs has declined. Smaller majorities agree that entrepreneurs take advantage of other people’s work (57%, +8 points compared with 2009) and that entrepreneurs only think about their own pockets (52%, -2 points compared with 2009).
The question of whether entrepreneurs take advantage of other people’s work produces the widest country variations: 91% of people in Poland agree that this is the case, as opposed to just 20% in Denmark. In 15 EU countries, more people think this now than did so in 2009, with Latvia (80%, +27 points) and the Netherlands (75%, +22 points) seeing the biggest increases.
In comparison with other professions, entrepreneurs are considered in a rather positive way. 53% of all Europeans declare having a good opinion about entrepreneurs, even if 57% of EU respondents see professionals as favourably. There is a mixed view when it comes to top managers (25%). More respondents see managers unfavourably (30%) than those who view them favourably.
A majority of respondents in 20 of the 27 EU countries view professionals favourably: results range from 74% in Estonia to 39% in Slovakia.
There are slightly wider variations among non-EU countries in terms of the popular impression of professional people. In four non-EU countries, more than 70% of respondents view professionals favourably: Iceland (77%), Brazil (72%), Israel (71%) and Russia (71%). But in China, only 32% of respondents view professionals favourably, as do just 42% of those in South Korea.
7. Reasons for wanting to be self-employed
Personal independence remains a popular reason for wanting to be self-employed amongst EU respondents, though it is less widely popular than in 2009, the only exception is Sweden. Among the non-EU countries, personal independence or self-fulfilment are not the main reasons for self-employment.
In Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Ireland and Denmark, more than four out of 10 favour self-employment because of the freedom to choose the place and time of one’s work. The same reason for being self-employed was given by at least 40% of respondents in China, South Korea, Norway and Brazil. On the contrary, relatively few people are motivated with this in Hungary, Spain, Turkey and Russia.
In nine EU countries, more people now say that they would like to become self-employed because of better income prospects than did so in 2009.
Most of EU respondents (50 %) have started business because they came across an opportunity. More than a quarter of respondents (29%) decided to start a business out of necessity and 15% took over a family business.
Coming across an opportunity is the reason given by the most EU respondents in all but two of the 27 Member States, the two exceptions being Greece and Romania, where more people say they started their business out of necessity. This is also the most popular answer in 11 of the 13 non-EU countries.
67% of self-employed people in the EU started their business from scratch. Men are somewhat more likely than female respondents to start their business this way (69% vs. 63%).
In six Member States at least 80% of respondents say that they started the business themselves: Estonia (89%), Cyprus (84%), Hungary (84%), the Czech Republic (82%) and Slovakia (81%). However, less than 60% of respondents give this answer in three Member States: Slovenia (53%), Luxembourg (57%) and Portugal (58%).
Among non-European countries, entrepreneurs in Russia (85%) and Israel (79%) are most likely to start their business from scratch.
8. Marked differences in the reasons for the employee preference
Just over a quarter of EU employees like the job security that comes with working as and another quarter of employees are attracted to employment by the regular, steady income.
In Italy, job security is the most important reason for being an employee, contrary to Latvia, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Finland where only around 15 % of employees pick this reason.
The range of responses is far wider among the non-EU countries. At one end of the scale, 75% of people in India and 62% of those in South Korea cite job security; at the other end of the scale, just 5% of respondents in Russia and 6% of those in Turkey say the same thing.
In 10 Member States, at least a tenth of respondents say that the welfare/insurance cover is their reason for preferring employment over self-employment, with the Czech Republic (16%), Lithuania (15%) and Germany (14%) having the highest proportions of people who mention this. In Brazil most people (32%) prefer welfare/insurance cover as their reason for preferring employment, the number is highest by far among all countries.
On this survey
The European Commission’s Directorate-General “Enterprise and Industry” has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in EU Member States for over a decade. This series of surveys has also endeavoured to compare the state of affairs within the EU by comparing the EU data with data from a range of non-EU countries.
This year's edition of the survey – Flash Eurobarometer No 354 “Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond” – covers the 27 countries currently comprising the EU as well as 13 countries from outside the EU. Several of these non-EU countries are included here for the first time, namely Brazil, Israel, India and Russia.
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