Perception and attractiveness of entrepreneurship in Flanders remains relatively low

Results of the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

Half of all Flemish people consider entrepreneurship a good career choice, yet the proportion of Flemish people who believe that successful entrepreneurs are held in high regard in Flanders is relatively lower. Moreover, the individual self-perception trend is continuing on its downward course. The Flemish see opportunities to launch their own companies, but they do not trust their own abilities and are held back by a fear of failure. Generally, Flanders boasts relatively few budding and new entrepreneurs compared to other countries. Last but not least, both budding and more experienced entrepreneurs seem to enjoy a relatively high level of emotional well-being.

These are the main findings of the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a yearly international study into the entrepreneurial climate based on a survey among the active population aged 18 to 64 years. What makes this study unique is its very broad view of entrepreneurship – the focus is mainly on the population’s entrepreneurial mindset, budding entrepreneurs and the ambitions of those just starting out.

In Flanders, the research is being conducted by Professor Hans Crijns and researchers Niels Bosma and Tine Holvoet from Vlerick Business School at STORE (the Support Centre for Entrepreneurship and Regional Economics). The project was commissioned by the Flemish government.

Entrepreneurship: visibility and attractiveness

It is striking that, while entrepreneurship is considered a good career choice by more than half of Flemish people (58%), not more respondents (54%) believe that successful entrepreneurs enjoy a high status and considerable respect in Flanders.
Hans Crijns, Professor of Entrepreneurship, explains that “54% may not seem like a low figure, but it is when compared to neighbouring countries, where the rates are over 70%. But there is more. With the exception of Japan, no other country has a structural status perception of entrepreneurs that is as low as ours. Yet the number of Flemish people who consider entrepreneurship a good career choice is in line with that of other countries. This is a recurring trend, which we see year in, year out. We have therefore decided to analyse it in more detail through research into the image of entrepreneurship in the press.”
A mere 4 out of 10 Flemish people (41%) think the media focus sufficiently on the success stories of new companies and entrepreneurs. In 2012 this percentage was higher.

Generally speaking, in the past few years, we have witnessed a downward trend in individual self perception relating to entrepreneurship,” explains Hans Crijns. “In other words, few people see themselves as entrepreneurs.”

  • 34% of respondents do not feel there will be sufficient opportunities in the next six months to set up a company. This figure is virtually identical to that of 2012, and it is in line with that of the other European reference countries (Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom).
  • 1 in 3 respondents have enough confidence in their own abilities and feel they have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to set up a new company. This figure is comparable to that in France, but trust in one’s own abilities appears slightly higher in the other reference countries.
  • Almost half (47%) of respondents who feel there are good opportunities for the launch of a new company also state fear of failure keeps them from moving forward.
  • Relatively few respondents actually intend to set up a company. Only 6% intend to effectively set up a new company within the next three years. That being said, they are not (yet) actively or concretely working on a start-up.

Relatively low number of budding and new entrepreneurs

The TEA indicator is comparable to the level of 2011 and now stands at 4.4%. This indicator shows the share of the general population aged 18 to 64 years actively involved in the set-up of a new company or managing their own company founded no more than 3.5 years ago.

Start-up ambitions

Job creation ranks low on the ambitions list of start-up founders. The share of new entrepreneurs expecting to create at least five new jobs in the next five years is a mere 1%, which is twice as low as in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Further research could be conducted to explore whether this is linked to the regulatory framework and the perceptions surrounding job creation and labour costs, or whether it is a result of the Flemish being less optimistic or more realistic”, explains Hans Crijns.

Flanders could also step up its efforts in terms of innovation, as it scores lower than average in this field. Between 2011 and 2013, less than 20% of all respondents launched a start-up focusing on innovation.

Nevertheless, the Flemish have a very international view of entrepreneurship. “In fact, Flanders scores higher than the reference countries, probably due to our small, open economy and the lack of significant language barriers with our direct neighbouring countries”, Hans Crijns continues.

Emotional well-being

Every year, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor focuses on a different topic related to entrepreneurship. In 2013, the research focused on the global trend of social aspects, well-being and the work-life balance being given increasing attention.
Global data shows that both new and more experienced entrepreneurs enjoy a high level of emotional well-being. Moreover, it is striking that the result for female entrepreneurs is particularly high. The latter stress that they cherish the great freedom they enjoy in finding a good balance between their work and their private life.

In 2013, the GEM carried out research into 70 different economies, including Flanders for the 13th time. The conclusions are based on the Adult Population Survey, a questionnaire among 18 to 64-year-olds using a representative sample of 1,145 respondents. Additional quality insights into the entrepreneurial climate in Flanders are provided by the National Expert Survey, a survey among experts. The data was collected in 2013 and analysed in 2014.

STORE, the Support Centre for Entrepreneurship and Regional Economics, advises the Flemish government based on fundamental and applied high-level economic research in three fields, namely (1) start-ups and entrepreneurial capital, (2) the development and further growth of SMEs, and (3) the measurement and identification of economic clusters (with particular attention for the analysis and implementation of a new industrial policy). Moreover, STORE is also responsible for the development of a database of regional economic indicators (the Regional Data Warehouse or RDW).

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