By / March 22, 2014

Young Entrepreneurs

In the aftermath of the crisis, youth unemployment rates have reached new heights across Europe. In January 2014, 23.4% of…

© Krasimira Nevenova /
© Krasimira Nevenova /
© Krasimira Nevenova /

In the aftermath of the crisis, youth unemployment rates have reached new heights across Europe. In January 2014, 23.4% of young Europeans were without a job. Following an EU wide initiative, ‘youth guarantees’ are being implemented in many EU countries. At the same time youth entrepreneurship is moving into focus, as entrepreneurship is known to be a driver for economic growth and job creation. While only 4% of 15-24 year-olds were self-employed in 2011, the interest in self-employment and entrepreneurship seems to be much higher according to a Flash Eurobarometer Survey from 2012. The survey found that around 44% of 15-24 year-old Europeans think that self-employment is feasible and would like to set up their own business. Lack of skills and financial resources are the most common barriers to youth entrepreneurship. In order to address these issues and encourage entrepreneurship a number of initiatives at both EU and National level have been introduced in recent years.

At national level, broad support is given to young entrepreneurs in most EU countries. National actions and initiatives vary from favourable conditions for start-ups to entrepreneurial learning schemes. Moreover, entrepreneurial education has gained wide recognition in curricula (EU Youth Report 2012).

At EU level, the Small Business Act called already in 2008 for an environment that supports youth entrepreneurship and fosters entrepreneurial spirit. Since 2009, the Erasmus for Entrepreneurs programme facilitates the exchange of young entrepreneurs to gain valuable learning experience in another business abroad. So far, more than 1600 exchanges have been organised with high satisfaction rates among both participants and hosts. Entrepreneurship education also became a key area in the Rethinking Education strategy and the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan which encourages Member States to create entrepreneurial learning modules. Moreover, it offers financial support for young business starters through the European Social Fund (ESF). For several years the ESF has financed projects in the field, such as the learning network on inclusive entrepreneurship COPIE. Further financial support comes through the European Progress Microfinance Facility which provides access to finance for SMEs. The European Parliament has passed several resolutions (7 February, 11 September, 22 October 2013) underling the importance of investing in entrepreneurship education and skills for young people.


Policy brief on Youth Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial activities in Europe. OECD, European Commission/ 2012, 28 p. This policy brief analyses the potential impact of entrepreneurship on youth employment. The paper delivers a comprehensive first overview by analysing barriers for young people (such as lack of encouragement, skills and financial resources) and presenting successful policy examples from France, Scotland, the UK and Germany.


Youth Entrepreneurship. A background paper for the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development/ Francis Greene, 2013. 35 p. This paper describes the benefits of youth entrepreneurship and analyses the reasons for low entrepreneurship rates. It describes the characteristics of youth entrepreneurship, the impact of public policy and gives examples of assistance to young entrepreneurs. The author concludes that it is not clear whether active labour market policies are advantageous to youth entrepreneurship.

The missing Entrepreneurs. Policies for inclusive Entrepreneurship in Europe/ OECD, 18 December 2013, 249 p. This OECD study looks into inclusive entrepreneurship; a concept that supports equal opportunities to become an entrepreneur for all members of society. Those with “under-recognised potential” such as young people should be targeted by particular policies. The study also presents rates of youth entrepreneurship and self-employment in several EU countries.

Policy brief on Access to Business Start-Up Finance for Inclusive Entrepreneurship/ European Commission & OECD, 11 March 2014, 34 p. Lack of financial resources often hinders entrepreneurship, especially for young people who often rely on the support of family, friends and public authorities. This policy brief analyses the scale and nature of the financing challenge and lists new and emerging policy actions for financing business start-ups by low-educated and young people.

Maximising impact of youth entrepreneurship support in different contexts. Background report, framework and toolkit for consultation/ Karen Ellis, Carolin Williams. March 2011, 113 p. This toolkit gives several policy recommendations on how to maximise impact of youth entrepreneurship support initiatives. It puts the recommendations into different settings (rural vs. urban areas; conflict affected, vs. post-conflict vs. peaceful areas) and analyses them accordingly.

Youth Entrepreneurship / European Microfinance Network, 2012, 42 p. This report is organised in three sections: the first part presents the current status quo of youth entrepreneurship policies, the second part focuses on key aspects for micro-finance institutions (MFI) to develop youth entrepreneurship programmes and the final part draws conclusions and gives recommendations for policymakers and MFIs.

Good practice

Shooting for the Moon: Good Practices in Local Youth Entrepreneurship Support/ Andrea-Rosalinde Hofer, Austin Delaney, OECD, 1 September 2010, 40 p. Following a good practice criteria list grouped by three dimensions (opportunity creation, entrepreneurship education, start-up support) this handbook brings together 28 local youth entrepreneurship activities from different countries that show a great variety of initiatives to support youth entrepreneurship.

Young people and entrepreneurship: European good practice projects/ European Commission, 2013, 84 p. Brings many different examples of successful young entrepreneurs across the EU which show the great variation of different projects.

Entrepreneurial skills and competences for young people/ European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 2011, 110 p. See in particular chapter 3 on Entrepreneurial skills and competences for young people (p. 73ff). The study focuses on skills are needed for entrepreneurial competence and how policy could be turned into practice by presenting several successful initiatives from Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

Entrepreneurship education

Entrepreneurial learning/ Anthony A. Gribben, policy briefing, 2013. This short policy briefing by the European Training Foundation gives a short overview of entrepreneurial learning and draws some policy conclusions from it. It underlines policy partnerships and partner cooperation, national evaluated policies and the exchange of good practice.

Promoting entrepreneurship through education/ Ariane Debyser, EPRS briefing, 4 December 2013, 6 p. This briefing looks into the role and scope of entrepreneurship education across the EU and the effects of school education on entrepreneurship. It then describes the EU’s role and the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan which invites Member States to make entrepreneurship a key competence in curricula and to promote entrepreneurial training.

Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe. National Strategies, Curricula and Learning Outcomes/ Eurydice, March 2012, 98 p. This comparative overview looks into entrepreneurship education on primary and secondary education in public schools across Europe, based on the findings of a survey among 31 countries. It analyses national strategies and action plans and current practice in different EU Member States. The report finds that there is a wide recognition of the importance of entrepreneurship education both a primary and secondary school level.

Enabling teachers as a critical success factor/ European Commission, Report, 2011, 78 p. This report describes entrepreneurship education and its aims. It looks into national strategies and assesses which steps still need to be taken at EU and national level as well as by regional/local authorities, schools, businesses and others. It concludes that wider changes are needed within the education system

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