ECONOMY

Few university graduates among young entrepreneurs in Greece

Aspiring entrepreneurs in Greece’s regions begin their career willing to create something of their own but with little knowledge of the field and almost no incentives, a university study shows. The study was conducted by Spyros Vliamos, professor of economics at the University of Thessaly, and his assistant Nikolaos Tzeremes. The study targeted the 203 small and medium-sized firms set up in the Thessaly region in 1999. Questionnaires were sent to all of them; 74 answered them. Most of the new companies in question (58.1 percent) were established by partnerships, rather than by a single entrepreneur. It is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of founders (78.4 percent) are men. Founding a company is a young person’s endeavor and the study confirms this: More than a quarter of the founders (28.4 percent) were under 25 and there was no one in the sample over 45. A surprising finding is that relatively few people (25.7 percent) are university graduates. Of the rest, 37.8 percent were either high school or technical college (TEI) graduates and 36.5 percent had a vocational certificate. The low percentage of new entrepreneurs with a university degree shows that university graduates are loath to invest in an independent career and that they prefer to be someone’s – or the State’s – employee. Speaking to Kathimerini, Professor Vliamos said that universities must promote business culture among university graduates. The University of Thessaly has decided to introduce business courses for students of all its departments. A forced choice Among the respondents, 54.1 said they had a job before they set up their company, while 45.9 percent said they were unemployed. «The last category became entrepreneurs in the context of an ‘economy of survival.’ We have a sort of forced entrepreneurship, a phenomenon prevalent in countries with low productivity, a high level of structural and cyclical unemployment and a high degree of insularity,» says Vliamos. As for the motives involved in setting up a business, almost eight out of 10 respondents replied that it was important to them (43.2 percent) or very important (36.5 percent) that they would be their own bosses. On the other hand, 18.9 percent replied that this consideration mattered little to them and another 1.4 percent that it did not matter at all. Despite this desire for independence, a great majority listened to their families before venturing into business: 71.6 percent replied that their immediate family played a crucial role in their decision. Specifically, 36.5 percent replied that their families played an «important» role and 35.1 percent that they played an «extremely important» role. Another 17.6 percent took account of family opinion but said it did not play a determining role in their decision. The availability of capital was, naturally, quite important. For some (24.3 percent) it was among the most important incentives, while another 37.8 percent said it was important. Perhaps more surprising was the fact that 31.1 percent said that capital availability didn’t matter either way. Among the new enterprises, 28.4 percent specialized in industrial products, 24.3 percent in services, 21.6 percent in wholesale commerce, 14.9 percent in foodstuffs and 10.8 percent in agricultural products. Three years after their founding, 59.5 percent of the enterprises were breaking even and 27 percent were profitable.