Entrepreneurship is a key driver of society’s health and wealth. It is also a formidable engine of economic growth. It promotes the change needed to not only exploit new opportunities, promote productivity and create jobs, but also to meet some of society’s biggest challenges, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Thus the promotion of entrepreneurship is at the heart of the concerns of many governments around the world. In France, business creation figures have reached new records, with almost a million new businesses in 2021, although this figure can be put into perspective due to the part of micro-entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship associated with platform. Is this a reflection of a business culture that has evolved and been established in recent years? And how does France compare to other countries in its relationship with entrepreneurship?
To answer these questions, in 2021 we carried out two studies for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) as part of the LabEx Entreprendre of the University of Montpellier: the first concerns entrepreneurial activity and is carried out with the population of France aged 18 to 64 (APS). study); the second concerns the national entrepreneurial ecosystem and is conducted with a panel of experts (NES study). These two studies have been replicated in other countries by national teams belonging to GEM, thus allowing an international comparison.
France in general
The study conducted among experts shows in particular that, in the G7 countries, there is a certain similarity in the perception of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is seen as generally favorable. Only the United States (5.3/10) stands out slightly. We can notice a strong similarity between countries such as Germany, Canada and France (5.1/10) where conditions are considered relatively favorable in general. On the other hand, these conditions are considered less favorable for Italy and Japan (4.7/10).
Among the 19 richest countries participating in the GEM, France stands out in terms of government policies (4th/19). The efforts made at the national and regional level in the last twenty years to promote entrepreneurship are therefore recognized and have contributed to the emergence of a particularly dynamic entrepreneurial support ecosystem.
However, France remains behind in cultural and social standards (18th/19th) and in business education at primary and secondary level (17th/19th). The entrepreneurial revolution therefore does not seem to have felt its full impact on society and efforts are still needed to spread an entrepreneurial culture. Similarly, the question of market access appears to be a weak point (17th/19th) of the French entrepreneurial ecosystem, undermining the development of emerging companies.
The value of entrepreneurial activity in a country, and therefore the weight of entrepreneurial culture, can be assessed using four indicators. It is a question of analysis: if entrepreneurship is considered a desirable career choice, if it gives a high social status, if it is valued in the media and if finally it is easy to do in France. This is what we did in the general population survey.
If we compare France to the G7 economies, it is again in the middle. For just over two-thirds of French respondents, entrepreneurship is a desirable career choice. However, only a small majority (55.4%) consider that it is now a high social status.
This positive representation is a marker of the evolution of entrepreneurial culture. The latter is influenced by the media which helps spread a more or less favorable image of entrepreneurship. Most French people feel, whether in the media or on the Internet, that the stories of successful new companies are highlighted (Figure 8).
We can mention for example the program “Who wants to be my partner” on M6 featuring entrepreneurs looking for funding. This reality TV program, present for twenty years in other countries, will be broadcast in France for the first time in 2021 and contributes to the democratization of entrepreneurship and the question of fundraising.
Beyond perceived desirability, the question of perceived feasibility is important. Depending on the country and time, perceived barriers related to the ease of registration and the burden of bureaucracy can slow down entrepreneurial intention and behavior. A small majority considers that in France, it is easy to start a business (Figure 9).
In the last twenty years, public authorities have in fact adopted measures to simplify business creation. This perception varies greatly from one country to another: the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom stand out with a sense of ease compared to Japan, Italy or Germany.
“earn a living”
However, according to our study, the strongest motivation of entrepreneurs is to “make a living because there are few jobs” (51.2%). This result suggests that most of them started the entrepreneurial venture out of necessity. This score is higher in Canada (70.7%), Italy (61.3%) or the United Kingdom (63.8%). On the other hand, it is lower in the United States (45.8%), Germany (40.9%) and Japan (40.1%).
To a lesser extent, entrepreneurs aim for an entrepreneurial career to “generate great wealth or obtain a very high income” (39.4%). The other two motivations only pertain to a quarter to a fifth of entrepreneurs. Starting a business motivated by the desire to make a difference in the world was expressed by only 25.8% of the entrepreneurs surveyed, while in the United States (71.2%) and Canada (70.4%), the proportions are higher. The same goes for the motivation to “continue a family tradition” which concerns only 22.9% of entrepreneurs in France compared to 41.5% in the United States and 50% in Canada.
The study therefore confirms the idea that France is becoming an entrepreneurial society. However, entrepreneurial culture does not seem to permeate society as a whole. Actions are still needed to remove some obstacles. As the experts on the panel point out, France lags behind other wealthier countries on the issue of entrepreneurship education at the primary and secondary levels.
For example, foundations in entrepreneurship education in primary and secondary school can make it possible on the one hand to better understand good practices in France and abroad, and on the other hand to design a strategy adapted to the diversity of contexts . .