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Jun. 7 2010 - 7:37 pm | 223 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

Europeans don’t admire entrepreneurs all that much

Lots of studies show that the U.S. is by far the most entrepreneur-friendly in the world, at least as far as government and tax policies go.  But, it also seems that basic attitudes towards entrepreneurship differ from one nation to another.

That’s according to a new study conducted by a European Union commission.

First, there’s the matter of just how much people admire small-business founders. Fact is, in this country, entrepreneurs are close to heroes, all-American, independent-minded, do-it-yourselfers, the heart and soul of our economy. So, it’s not surprising that  73% of Americans have positive opinions of entrepreneurs.

But, apparently, that admiration is not shared by others. The study found that just 49% of EU residents have the same high opinion of entrepreneurs.

At the same time, a significant number of  Europeans–45%–want to be their own boss.  That’s substantial, especially when compared, say, to the Japanese, where 39% have that preference. But it doesn’t compare to the number of those in the U.S. who’d like to be on their own. (55%).

When you drill down to specific European countries, however, you see different patterns. In Cyprus and Greece, for example, a preference for self-employment is even larger than in the U.S.  (Perhaps a good thing in Greece, where entrepreneurship may be the only way to make a living right now). But, in Slovakia, Belgium and Denmark, a mere one third of the population or less wants to be an entrepreneur.

But, where’s the strongest preference for entrepreneurship?

It’s China, where 71% of the population studied wants to be self-employed.  Whether that’s thanks to encouragement from government policy or reluctance to work for such companies as Foxconn , with their grueling, totalitarian-like policies that have contributed to a recent spate of suicides, is unclear.

But, it’s quite a remarkable finding.


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  1. collapse expand

    “The thing that’s wrong with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” -George W. Bush

  2. collapse expand

    Interesting. I don’t know much about what the policies are like for entrepreneurs in the countries you mention. But in the Western European countries, at least, they’d have access to free health care and an unemployment safety net, I imagine. That’s not the case here in U.S.

    Which makes me marvel at our enthusiasm about entrepreneurship. It’s like how we have a higher fertility rate than most rich nations but provide some of the worst work-family policies around. American exceptionalism for you.

  3. collapse expand

    Liz. Thanks for those great observations. One thing that’s supposed to stop people in this country from starting a business is the problem of providing health care coverage for themselves and employees. In other words, we might have more startups if we had a national health care system. So, there are the French, with guaranteed access to the most unbelievably great system, yet they aren’t rushing out to start their own businesses. Go figure.

    I tend to see entrepreneurism as the ultimate American cultural expression, combining our obsession with individualism and pulling yourself from your bootstraps with an emphasis on money as a key determining factor in whether or not you’re officially successful. So, I see a lot of cultural reasons for our love affair with entrepreneurs.

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    About Me

    It's just in the past few years that I've become interested in not-only-for-profit startups and small businesses. In fact, I can remember a time when I thought the concept of "enlightened capitalism" was simply an oxymoron. Now, I see the possibilities. Plus, it combines my own political bent with my long-time coverage of small business for such places as the New York Times, Business Week, CNNMoney.com, Portfolio.com, Harvardbusinessonline, and Fortune. Otherwise, I live with my son, a soccer fanatic, my husband, a journalist and avid rower, in Pelham, NY. My daughter, a former varsity wrestler, is away at college, studying art. You can see more of my work at www.annefieldonline.com. Or follow me on Twitter@annearfannearf.

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