7th Jul 2020

EU lags behind US in entrepreneurial culture

The EU continues to lag behind the US when it comes to entrepreneurship, a poll published on Monday (17 January) by the European Commission shows.

The survey – conducted on both sides of the Atlantic – shows that nearly twice as many Americans are thinking of setting up their own business (28 percent) than their European counterparts (15 percent).

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Moreover, the gap appears to be widening. The number of people thinking about starting their own firm increased by eight percent since 2003 in the US, but only by two percent in the EU.

Job security please

Europeans also seem to feel more at home working within a company than Americans, who would rather be self-employed.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of American respondents to the poll said they would prefer to be self-employed, compared to only 45 percent of Europeans, who cited job security and a fixed regular income as reasons to be employed by a company rather than being their own boss.

However, there appeared to be a "North/South" divide within the EU in this respect. Portugal and Spain had high percentages of people (62 percent and 56 percent respectively) wanting to be self-employed, whereas Finns (28 percent), Dutch (33 percent) and Swedes (35 percent) prefer to be employed by companies.

Lack of finance

The main reason cited by the Commission for the lack of entrepreneurial spirit in the EU is that people find it difficult to find sufficient funding to set up a business – either from banks or venture capital firms.

Nearly three-quarters of people said that "it is difficult to start one’s own business due to a lack of available financial support".

Javier Echarri, Secretary-General of the European Venture Capital Association, which aims to promote an entrepreneurial spirit in the EU, said, "If the EU is serious about encouraging more Bill Gates and Richard Bransons in the EU, then it must look to ease access to finance for entrepreneurs as well as improve the entrepreneurial environment in Europe".

Europeans also said that a fear of failure was another reason not to set up a business.

'Bored' of Lisbon

Encouraging entrepreneurship is a key plank of the EU’s so-called Lisbon Strategy – its aim to be the most dynamic, knowledge-based economy in the World by 2010.

But in this, as with many aspects of the Lisbon Strategy, the EU appears to be going backwards rather than forwards.

Asked by journalists if the Commission was disappointed by this fact, the Deputy Director-General for Enterprise, Heinz Zourek, said, "we are not disappointed, but we are worried".

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