Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)

Report for Belgium and Flanders 2009

The global scale of the GEM survey enables regions and countries to make comparisons with each other with regard to the new entrepreneurial climate. The GEM survey is unique in that it not only focuses on the number of persons that have founded a company but also on the number of persons that are in the process of starting a company that has not yet become a formal entity. Furthermore, the GEM examines the population’s perception regarding entrepreneurship. The worldwide study is coordinated and supervised by London Business School (UK) and Babson College (USA).

The goal of the GEM report for Belgium and Flanders (2009) is to provide a quantitative as well as a qualitative description of the degree of entrepreneurship in Belgium and Flanders. In order to do that, the GEM data for 2009 have been supplemented with a set of GEM data that has been collected in the past 10 years, as well as with additional available sources that provide a more in-depth and finely-tuned picture of the complex phenomenon of entrepreneurship.

This Analysis Highlights a Number of Important Conclusions

  • Flanders and Belgium have a strong population of established entrepreneurs that in relative figures is comparable to our neighbouring countries. Depending on the source of the figures, about 1 in 10 Belgians and Flemings is self-employed or the owner/manager of a company. 
  • In contrast to the number of established entrepreneurs, the relative number of starting entrepreneurs is rather low compared with the average innovation-driven countries. However, this figure does not differ significantly from Belgium’s immediate neighbours. The GEM figures show that 3.33% of the Flemish (3.51% of the Belgian) population in the working-age category established their own company in 2009. By comparison: in our immediate and nearby reference countries, that figure is 5.02%, and it’s 6.3% for the innovation-driven countries. At the same time, however, we can see a sharp increase since 2003. Even though this is partly the result of new administrative regulations, this trend is consistent across several years: a clear indication that there has been growth in the area of start-ups starting in 2003.
  • However, differences between GEM figures and other figures require us to reflect on what the GEM figures actually tell us. One message jumps out consistently: although there are a lot of entrepreneurs and owners/managers of SMEs active in Flanders and Belgium, they do not necessarily consider themselves to be entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is not looked upon as a particularly attractive career choice. Moreover, people do not know many entrepreneurs and they see few opportunities, but they are not held back by a lack of skills or the fear of failure. All of this indicates that entrepreneurship in Belgium and Flanders is competing against a very attractive alternative: the security and social support that is provided by the employee status.
  • Despite these interpretations, it is important to note that a large number of Flemish and Belgian entrepreneurs view the impact of the financial crisis positively. Although some feel that the financial crisis has had a negative impact on their abilities to establish or grow a company, the majority feel that the financial crisis has had no impact and has even created new opportunities for growth and start-up.   


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