Study: Entrepreneurs worldwide tend to be younger

NEW YORK (AP) — As more companies are launched around the world, the entrepreneurs behind them are likely to be younger people, between the ages of 25 and 34.

That's the finding of a study by researchers at Babson College and schools in Britain, Malaysia and Chile, who said the highest rates of entrepreneurship are found among people in that age range. The study released Thursday was based on a survey of more than 198,000 people in 69 countries taken in the late spring and early summer of last year.

In the parts of the world included in the study, nearly half the entrepreneurs were between 25 and 44.

The findings may not be surprising given that many high-profile technology companies like Facebook and Google were started by people in their 20s. But it shows that around the world, younger people see themselves in the roles of business owners and not necessarily in the role of a worker.

In Russia, Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland and other European countries that are not part of the European Union, half the entrepreneurs were between 18 and 34. In China, 57 percent fell into that age group. But in Latin America, the Caribbean and most of Africa, entrepreneurs tend to be older, between 45 and 64.

"In every part of the world, youth are starting businesses as well as those in their late careers," says Donna Kelley, an associated professor of entrepreneurship at Babson in Wellesley, Mass., a co-author of the study. "Whether it be educated youth in a society unable to find jobs to apply their skills, mid-career workers suddenly unemployed, retirees wanting or needing to continue earning income, or individuals of any age that recognize opportunities ... people have particular strengths they can leverage at various points in their careers."

But Kelley said many entrepreneurs will need training and resources to succeed.

Not surprisingly, the most upbeat attitudes about being an entrepreneur were found in countries whose economies have great growth potential. The most optimistic survey participants were in what's called sub-Saharan Africa, which includes most of the countries below the continent's northernmost nations of Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Morocco. Only 24 percent of the people surveyed in sub-Saharan countries said fear of failure would stop them from starting a business. People in Latin America and the Caribbean were almost as confident — only 28 percent said they were afraid of failing.

By contrast, Greece and Italy, two countries that are burdened by debt and weak economies, had the biggest fear of failure. In Greece, 61 percent of the participants said fear of failure would stop them from starting a company. In Italy, 58 percent said they would were afraid of failing.

The survey also found that the countries with the greatest number of potential and new entrepreneurs tended to weaker economies as measured by their gross domestic product. One reason for this is the fact that opportunities to find a job may be limited in those countries. Zambia, located in Africa, and Ecuador, in South America, had the highest percentage of potential and new entrepreneurs, 27 percent.

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