79% of under 35s want to be entrepreneurs, but do not achieve this until they are over 40
Photo: Al ghazali / Unsplash (CC)
Ainhoa Sorrosal
The main reason for wanting to be self-employed is to make money

What millennials most value about being entrepreneurs is not having a boss or having to report to superiors. Fifty-seven per cent of young people of this generation want to be self-employed. Forty per cent also point out that being self-employed implies an element of self-achievement while twenty-three per cent see it as a way into the job market. These are the findings of the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report (2016), produced with the Technische Universitt Muenchen (TUM), in which a thousand Spaniards were surveyed. Similarly, the EDUCA 2020 study, produced by GAD3 and sponsored by Fundaci AXA, concludes that one in five higher education students want to be entrepreneurs. In the latter case, 9,000 students were interviewed.

This generation do not connect with the values that regulate the traditional job market and are creating their own Do It Yourself style revolution. We are witnessing a change of mentality. “The generation that studied in the 1990s and the 2000s were oriented towards doing civil service entrance exams or working in a company”, according to the Professor of the UOC Faculty of Economics and Business, Ana Jimnez Zarco, “Nowadays, however, schools and, subsequently, universities are promoting skills such as entrepreneurship and critical thinking, which are key to advancing your personal project".

This is a crucial aspect, according to Jimnez Zarco, who comments that a combination of three circumstances is responsible for this. The first, skills training at the school stage. The second, the impact of a recession which has changed the job market, limiting the calls for civil service entrance exams and with significant rounds of redundancies. And finally, measures originating from public administrations and some private organizations that favour entrepreneurship.

Jimnez Zarco, who is a researcher of the IN3i2TICnet research group and who has participated in various studies on entrepreneurship, adds that with regard to millennials, there is a digital context which promotes individuality and allows them to do things by themselves. “Being digital natives has a lot to do with it: they are a generation who have grown up with the benefits that new technologies offer and now view them as a very potent tool for working for themselves.”

In addition to the flexibility and low costs offered by the Internet and social media, there is the elimination of barriers of time and space to access the global market. “The digital context makes it possible to develop individual projects and to do things on your own, and it also favours the success of other business models based on networking or the creation of micro-businesses”, she points out.

Forties, ambition and necessity

The case of those born in the 70s and 80s is different. Reality has shown them that their first job is not for life, unlike the experience of their parents. In spite of this, they were educated with the notion of a relatively stable job market. A notion which has been consigned to history. Faced with the new reality, this generation, especially liberal professionals, have opted for freelancing and self-employment. In some cases due to necessity, in others due to ambition, in order to improve their working conditions and/or salary.

According to the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) Report for Spain 2016, the reasons for entrepreneurship are “necessity” or “opportunity”, seen as the solution to a specific problem. The study reveals that 26% of people are entrepreneurs by necessity and 70% due to opportunity. Of these, 42.8% seek more independence, 45% want to increase their earnings and 8.8% maintain them. It is worth noting that, until 2015, the main reason for being self-employed was to have more independence, whereas today the main reason is to earn more money.

The report reveals that, in 2016, the average age of those expressing an interest in becoming potential entrepreneurs was 38.7, whereas the entrepreneurial population at the initial stage had an average age of 40.4 and persons identified as established entrepreneurs, 47.7. On this point, Jimnez Zarco makes a specific point regarding women: “increasingly there are more cases of women who become entrepreneurs as a means of balancing their personal lives with their professional careers”.

Previous experience

The researchers also conclude that having work experience prior to starting an entrepreneurial project is important. Consequently, the majority of entrepreneurial projects are concentrated within the 35 to 44 age group. There is a practical issue: one of the main factors that is valued when offering funding is previous experience.

In spite of this, it is worth noting that in 2016, 7.8% of young people aged between 25 and 34 were involved in some type of entrepreneurial project. Jimnez Zarco says that in the majority of cases, this is the result of projects which originated at university through Accelerators or Incubators.



Photograph of Ana Isabel Jimnez-Zarco

Ana Isabel Jimnez-Zarco

Expert in: Innovation; entrepreneurship and business competitiveness; cooperation and uses of ICT; brand image and identity.

Knowledge area: Innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing and market research.

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