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Flash Eurobarometer Survey on Entrepreneurship 2000

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EOS Gallup Europe.

Though most Europeans would prefer self- rather than dependent employment, they are much more reserved than people in the US when it comes to the creation of a business. This is one of the key results of a Flash Eurobarometer survey on "entrepreneurship" that was conducted in autumn 2000 among about 8200 people of the general public in the EU and the US. A major reason for this is their general attitude towards risk taking. While a majority of Europeans and Americans is willing to give a second chance to people who started their own business and failed, many more Europeans support the statement that one should not start a business if there is a risk it might fail. The survey also looks into questions such as the difficulties perceived when setting up a business, the image of entrepreneurs in society and the social support for entrepreneurs from their family.

1. The attitudes towards risk

Europeans are more concerned with avoiding risk than Americans are (see graph 1 ). 45 % of the people in the EU, but only 27 % in the US are supporting the statement "One should not start a business if there is a risk it might fail". Ireland is the only European country where the answer is comparable to that from the US sample. This clearly indicates that most Europeans are reluctant to set up a business under risk conditions that Americans would accept. In other words, for the threshold level of risk-taking by US citizens to start a business, no European business would be set up. This relatively more pronounced risk-aversion can be considered as an important inhibiting factor business genesis.

On the other hand, the offer of a second chance to people who failed is seen as normal on both sides of the Atlantic (graph 2 ). A huge majority is obviously not stigmatising entrepreneurs who tried but failed.

Socio-demographic factors in European opinion are important regarding the risk of failure, but not concerning the offer of a second chance: young people and people with longer education are much more tolerant towards taking risk than the European average. The same applies to self-employed and employees compared to other professional categories, probably in relation to the length of education.

2. Difficulties when setting up a business

Part of the explanation why Europeans are more reluctant to set up their own business can be found in the difficulties perceived. When it comes to the general perception how difficult it is to start a small business, attitudes of Europeans and Americans are nearly the same (graph 3 ). Most of them think that it is somewhat to very difficult, with nearly identical results within the 15 Member States (exception: Finland, where more people than elsewhere think it is easy to start a business).

This picture changes if one looks into the concrete difficulties perceived:

  • More than 80 % in the EU and the US think that it is difficult to start a business, due to a lack of available financial support (graph 4 ). While there are several Member States where people see less problems than in the US, it is only in the Netherlands where a majority does not support the statement "It is difficult to start one’s own business due to a lack of available financial support".
  • Europeans see more difficulties in obtaining sufficient information on how to start their business than Americans do (graph 5 ). But the situation is very different within the EU: In the Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Denmark, the necessary information seems to be less difficult to obtain.
  • Americans see the administrative procedures as being less complex than most Europeans (graph 6 ), with the Netherlands as the only country where these procedures seem to be less burdensome than in the US.
  • Europeans are much more negative on the general economic climate (graph 7 ) in autumn 2000: About 60 % (US: about 40 %) say that the current economic climate was "not favourable for people who want to start their own business". There are huge differences within the EU, with the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria and Finland as the countries where the economic climate is less often seen as a source of difficulties.

3. Being employed or self-employed?

Whether somebody wants to be employed or self-employed is also the result of attitudes towards risk taking and the difficulties perceived for the start of a new business. The dispersion of attitudes within the EU and the difference to the US are enormous (graph 8 ). 69 % of Americans and 51 % of Europeans would prefer being self-employed. Within the EU Finland (68 %) has the highest and Greece (28 %) the lowest share of people who would prefer dependent employment.

Opinion is in favour of the employed status in seven countries: Finland, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg (Is it by chance that we have here the three Nordic countries and the three Benelux countries?) On the other hand, six countries have an opinion in the majority favourable to the self-employed status: Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and France. And the remaining two countries are divided: the United Kingdom and Germany (with for the latter an East-West division).

4. Other Findings

In addition to these key results, there are some more interesting findings:

    In some EU countries people are significantly less in favour of owners of "rapidly growing businesses" than of owners of "small businesses" (graph 9 ). There seems to be no difference between social support for a daughter and a son (gender question).

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