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37% of Europeans would like to be their own boss

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Almost 4 out of 10 Europeans would like to be their own boss if they could. If this potential could be tapped, millions of new businesses could be added to the almost 21 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU.

"In the worst economic crisis since 1945, we should look back to the roots of the economic miracle in Europe after the war. It was based on entrepreneurship and bold decisions taken by entrepreneurial personalities. I encourage more Europeans to follow their example, take the plunge and become their own boss. If we want to stimulate growth in Europe, we must start with SMEs. We will do our best to ensure that the Europe's enormous entrepreneurial potential can be fully exploited."

Various obstacles prevent Europeans from opting for self-employment, in particular fear of bankruptcy and risk of irregular income. The Flash Eurobarometer "Entrepreneurship in the EU and beyond", presented by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani at SME Summit in Cyprus, also highlights that in 2009 more Europeans (45%) wanted to be self-employed. This is a drop of 20% within three years, which reflects the current economic situation with its less promising business prospects.

Yet there are still millions who consider becoming their own boss, driven by the prospects of personal independence, better income and freedom to choose the place and time of work. To unlock the enormous potential of millions of would-be entrepreneurs, the European Commission will launch a European Entrepreneurship Action Plan to boost entrepreneurship at all levels, aiming to bring growth and employment back to Europe.

Desirability of self-employment - large differences between Member States

The main results of the Eurobarometer survey can be summarised as follows:

  • 37% of EU respondents would rather be self-employed, while a majority (58%) would prefer to be an employee. Self-employment is generally more popular among non-EU countries.
  • In 2009, 45% wanted to be self-employed. Europeans stress the lack of financial resources as well as their lack of skills as reasons for not regarding self-employment as a feasible career, not to mention the current economic climate with less promising business prospects.
  • Lithuania and Greece are most interested: Respectively 58% and 50% of respondents would rather be self-employed. Self-employment is least popular in Sweden (22%), Finland (24%), Denmark (28%) and Slovenia (28%).
  • Men and young people (42% and 45%) are more interested in being self-employed than women (33%) or older people (36%).
  • 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).
  • Self-employment is more popular in many non-European countries, namely China (56%), Brazil (63%) and Turkey (82%).
  • In the US and Asia preference for self-dependence decreased, too: In China from 71% to 56% since 2009, while the preference for working as an employee has increased from 28% to 32%. In the US the preference for employee has notably increased from 37% to 46%.
  • Several reasons hold back Europeans to start up a business: 43% of EU respondents say they would be afraid of the risk of going bankrupt, while 37% say that the risk of losing their property/home would concern them the most. Other difficulties are lacking financial support and complex administrative procedures. More than 50% think that it is difficult to obtain sufficient information on how to start a business.
  • Key considerations are taken when starting a business: 87% of Europeans who have started a business says that having an appropriate idea was an important factor, as well as having the necessary financing for 84% of them. Other important factors are appropriate business partners, role models, addressing an urgent social or ecological need and dissatisfaction with their previous work situation.
  • New entrepreneurs are positively percieved: 87% of Europeans agree that entrepreneurs are job creators and 79% that they create new products and services which benefit the whole society. 

Flash Eurobarometer on Entrepreneurship

European Small Business portal

The SME Assembly

About the Eurobarometer Survey on entrepreneurship

For over a decade the European Commission has been studying the development of entrepreneurship in EU Member States. 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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