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Eurobarometer Survey on Entrepreneurship 2009

2009 Eurobarometer Survey on Entrepreneurship

Stable Preference for Employee Status in the EU

In Europe the preference for self-employment remained stable. As in 2007, 45% of all Europeans would like to be self-employed while 49% 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 almost unchanged at 36% (vs. 37% in 2007).

There are 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 an interest for being an entrepreneur.

Men generally express a stronger preference for self–employment (51%) than women (39%) and young people are more inclined to start a business than older citizens. A good education promotes the desire for self-employment as does living in an urban area. The occupation of the parents is another strong indicator for the occupational preferences of the children. Of those whose one of parents were self-employed 56% would like to be self-employed too. Where both parents were employees only 42% of the children declare a preference for self-employment.

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.

Ambivalent attitudes towards entrepreneurs: job creators or exploiters?

All over the world people 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 in the past two years. 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 figures  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). Yet, 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%).

Are entrepreneurs a different kind of people?

For the first time the Flash Eurobarometer on entrepreneurship has analysed not only entrepreneurial attitudes and opinions but also character traits and personality characteristics of entrepreneurially active people. 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 thinks himself more inventive. Business people are also more confident to master difficult talks and count less on their luck to solve problems.

Entrepreneurial attitudes in Europe compared to the US and Asia

Chinese people have the strongest preference for self-employment (71%), Japanese people the weakest (39%). Similarly, Chinese think it is quite possible to become one’s own boss (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 (31%).

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 (32%) and Korea (30%) even lower.


The survey has been published for the first time in 2000. It covers now 25 EU Member States, USA, Norway and Iceland. The results are representative and presented by country, but also by socio-demographic characteristics.

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