European Youth Media Days 2013

“If you fail, it is like dying”

Youth entrepreneurship in Europe: fear of failure

by Marieke Vandenberghe

Five years of economic crisis have wreaked havoc on the European labour market. Facing high rates of unemployment, with the youth suffering the most, the economic crisis in Europe also shows to be a problem of growth. With SMEs being the biggest source of new jobs and the related growth, entrepreneurship occurs in the foreground. But in attitudes towards entrepreneurship Europe is lagging behind its competitors.

Europe is currently going through an economic crisis that has severely shaken up the European labour market. Throughout the European Union, many people have lost their jobs and the youth in particular have taken a big hit with unemployment reaching up to 50%in Spain and Greece.

In order to stop this evolution, growth is needed. Although unlikely to be a panacea for solving the entire youth unemployment problem, youth entrepreneurship can be one of the options. Regarding entrepreneurial attitudes, Europe is still lagging behind its competitors, accordinding the European Commission after a public consultation for its Entrepreneurship Action Plan 2020 last year.

The Comission Reports also mentions that young entrepreneurs face specific barriers in entrepreneurship activities. Commonly budding entrepreneurs in Europe experience hurdle blocks such as: a lack of education and encouragement in entrepreneurship; difficulties in acquiring loans; limited business networks; restricted access to markets; bothersome administration; and the fear of sanctions in case of failure.

These hurdles need different approaches. To encourage youth entrepreneurship, the “Youth Guarantee” programme adopted by the Council in April 2013 to combat youth unemployment, is including country specific recommendations for those with high youth unemployment rates such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Lithuania.

A general European hurdle regarding entrepreneurship is the fear of failure. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor from 2012, a global study conducted by a consortium of universities that compares data from around the world, the fear of failure prooves to be highest in Greece (61%) and Italy (58%) which is well above that of the United States (31%) and China (36%). “In my country Italy, I think that if you fail then you cannot succeed in other businesses. It is like dying. I went to the United States and the culture of failure is quite different than in Italy and also in Europe,” says Cristiano Recchia, a young entrepreneur.

In the European SME Week 2013, an event to promote entrepreneurship, which will take place from 25th-30th November, will address the stigma attached to failure. Also some other initiatives are starting to show to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to set up businesses. This includes the launch of a campaign this summer called “Fail2Succeed” by ThinkYoung, a Brussels based think tank that focuses on youth.

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