This article is part of Amway’s ‘Driving Entrepreneurship in Europe’ Knowledge Network
Entrepreneurs are frequently thought of as assets to any country’s development. If successful, their innovations spur economic growth and bring opportunities to communities, especially when the economy is stagnating and needs new investment to overcome crisis. But what fuels a person’s intentions to start a business? What are their personal driving forces and what are the obstacles to becoming an entrepreneur, especially in Europe?
These and other questions were discussed during the event “Rethinking employment: are micro entrepreneurs the future?” held earlier in November at the European Parliament.
The debate was put forward in the framework of the European Small and Medium Enterprises Week, a pan-European campaign that aims to promote entrepreneurship in Europe promoted by the European Commission DG Growth.
“In the wake of the digital age, the European Union must fully realize potential and opportunities offered by e-commerce for the development of the single market. SMEs need to better understand how to benefit of the digital revolution and the collaborative economy by using smart technologies and new services” said Marlene Mizzi, MEP of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, who promoted the event.
At the core of the discussion were the key findings of the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report (AGER) 2016, which were presented during the meeting. “As part of our commitment to foster public discussion, we have commissioned this report since 2008” said Michael Meissner, Vice President of Amway Europe.
The newly published AGER 2016 Report is an annual survey that gauges public opinion on the state of self-employment across the world. Amway is one of the world’s largest direct selling businesses that has put entrepreneurship promotion at the heart of its organization, and was one of the promoters of event.
Meissner highlighted the need of data regarding entrepreneurship for better understanding the future of labor market, since “policy changes need to be based on evidence and what is available today is not sufficient enough in some areas.”
AGER 2016 Key Findings
“This year we have a special focus on entrepreneurship in a changing work environment” said Dr. Marcus Drescher, European Commission Analyst and Scientific Advisor to AGER 2016 who presented the key findings of the report.
The 2016 study finds 77% of respondents have a positive attitude toward entrepreneurship. This consistently high interest in self-employment may explain the increasing importance of global trends like sharing economy.
These results seem to be indicators of a changing world of work since the trend of individuals seeking to work independently is on the rise. The AGER results support this trend, with 39% of respondents worldwide seeing self-employment more likely in five years than today and 56% feeling comfortable searching for and acquiring customers – a key element of self-employment.
However, the entrepreneurial potential varies between demographic groups. For instance, the findings show that females are less willing to start a business. Added to that, the motivation to become self-employed decreases as age increases.
In comparison to other regions, Europe is ranking lowest in providing a positive entrepreneurship environment. The attitude in the EU for entrepreneurship is generally positive (74%), with Norway having the most positive attitude and Romania being seen as having the least positive.
However, when comparing to the rest of the world, Asia, North America and Latin America are perceived as having a more positive attitude toward entrepreneurs, with the latter leading the way.
During the event, a significant focus was also placed on the legislative dimension that needs to accompany the opportunities given by the digital revolution.
“We must make sure that this change will not lower social standards and rights in the labor market and we have to defend the new categories of entrepreneur workers in the digital economy” said MEP and Rapporteur on the Collaborative Economy Nicola Danti (S&D group).
A concern echoed also by Julie Fionda, member of the cabinet of Commissioner for Employment Marianne Thyssen, who pinpointed access to finance as the most hindering barrier affecting entrepreneurships.
“We know that access to finance is crucial in setting up small business. We have allocated specific funds in order facilitate so, like the Easy microfinance programme, which has helped entrepreneurs with one million euros so far, combined with assistance, mentoring and technical support.”
The issue of regulative restrictions was tackle by Dr. Vesa Vanhanen, Senior Expert and Deputy Head of Unit for the DG Internal Market, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. “We have several policy initiatives in the Digital Single Market strategy that aim to address issues like the lowering the regulative burden, in order to make it easy for business to sell their goods and services across the single market”.
Not only MEPs, politicians and legislator contributed to the dialogue, but also scientist, stakeholders and most importantly micro-entrepreneurs and start-ups contributed with their personal experiences and insights, providing a direct perspective which highlighted the difficulties and hard reality behind becoming an entrepreneur.
“Entrepreneurship in Europe is not in such a good position” said Sèbastien Morvan co-founder of the Brussels Beer Project, a Belgian brewery that started with a crowdfunding three years ago in a garage and now has twelve employees.
“Belgium is the anti-Silicon Valley” complained Morvan, pinpointing access to finance and bureaucracy as the biggest obstacles preventing young entrepreneurs to flourish. “You need 87 euros to start an enterprise, and I struggled with banks which were refusing my loan requests”.