ECONOMY

Entrepreneurs, but reluctant

Many young Greeks seeking to be entrepreneurs in this country are businesspeople because they need to be, not because they are seeking opportunities, says a survey by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE). They try business initiatives because they have failed to find employment. The percentage of young people forced into enterprising ventures because of their inability to find another kind of job reaches 28 percent, compared to 18 percent in the European Union. This «entrepreneurship by necessity» did decline in 2004 compared to 2003, while entrepreurship because of opportunity recorded a rise. So concluded a recent event titled «Entrepreneurship in Greece,» jointly organized by IOBE and the Entrepreneurship Club. The annual IOBE survey on entrepreneurship, in the context of the international survey «Global Entrepreneurship Monitor» (GEM), was presented in detail, showing signs of improvement in Greece for 2004. Yet the picture is far from satisfactory. Data show that the quality dimension of business activity in this country is lagging. The main weaknesses recorded include the small number of opportunity initiatives, the shallowness of business activity, the low level of extroversion, the presumedly low entrepreneurship of existing companies and the limited potential for job creation. On the other hand, some evidence offers some optimism: the rapid expansion of the market regarding entrepreneurship, the adoption of new technology in realizing fresh initiatives and the apparently more intensive activity in the sector of services to companies. The 2004 survey also found that the decline in the number of new enterprises was the sole factor for the drop in the overall business activity. However, the portion of business hopefuls – those at the point of starting a new initiative – recorded a rise last year. Compared with the other 33 countries participating in the GEM program, overall entrepreneurship in Greece is at the middle. Priorities According to IOBE, the issues emerging from the survey suggest that the country’s strategic priority ought to be a policy for entrepreneurship, putting emphasis on quality. That means bolstering entrepreneurship which targets opportunities, addresses all economy sectors, has high potential, creates jobs, broadens the existing market and has an orientation for exports. The survey also offers other pointers, such as: – High priority must be given to supporting the entrepreneurship of women, which can have tangible and substantial effects. – To limit the fear of failure – a major obstacle preventing the growth of entrepreneurship in Greece – businesspeople must eliminate the social stigma associated with failure. – The simplification of procedures and the facilitation of funding new initiatives can lighten the weight of start-up costs, which are deemed high by Greek standards. – Supporting the entrepreneurship of existing companies is equally important to increase the number of entrepreneurs. Measures are constantly required to encourage expansion, upgrading and innovation. – The young and hopeful entrepreneurs must utilize – up to an extent – the existing state programs. Their participation can be broadened by activating new programs and better informing them about their options. Young people are the most active and enterprising-friendly group in the population. Therefore, the bolstering of young people’s entrepreneurship is expected to have positive effects, through changes in the education system and targeted action.