Entrepreneurial potential of seniors in relation to know-how transfer

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The impact of demographic changes on society is profound. Demographic processes in developed countries (ageing population) are evident. This happens for a number of reasons. In the case of the Slovak Republic, population ageing is faster than in other European countries. The ageing trend is also reflected in the change in the structure of the economically active population. While in 2005 there were approximately 194 thousand people in the territory of the Slovak Republic  aged 55 and over, in 2008 there were more than 449 thousand in the same age cohort. Current population projections are not favourable either.

The issue of an ageing population can also be seen as an opportunity. There are several ways to support or retain seniors in the labour market. The common goal of these measures is to promote the potential of seniors.

The current consensus in society is that seniors possess considerable knowledge, skills or abilities. In recent years, attention has been paid to promoting the active participation of seniors in the labour market. Therefore, supporting the entrepreneurial activity of seniors, especially in the area of transferring experience, is not unknown. However, its intensity and the extent to which support measures have been built vary from country to country. The challenge in this area remains the adoption of supportive policies to enable individuals to remain active for longer, including through entrepreneurship. At the same time, there is a need for more dynamic education to inform about the opportunities and benefits that entrepreneurship can have for seniors. Adoption of best practices that reflect the involvement of seniors in entrepreneurial activity at EU level should aim at improving the exploitation of the potential of senior entrepreneurs at national level.

Senior entrepreneurship is becoming part of the so-called inclusive entrepreneurship in society. On the positive side within the EU, individuals aged 50 and over are increasingly choosing to start their own business. There are a number of reasons to support the target group from an entrepreneurial perspective both before and during retirement.

Promoting the potential of seniors has an impact not only on the individuals (entrepreneurs) themselves, but also on society as a whole. Even though they may not necessarily create innovative and high-growth businesses, they can still influence a country’s economic growth. Ensuring the so-called active ageing population is considered one of the EU’s strategic priorities. In this respect, it is crucial to highlight the opportunities that entrepreneurship brings for those approaching retirement age or those who are already of retirement age.

In Slovakia, in terms of development tendencies of the share of active natural persons aged 55 and over, entrepreneurial activity decreases with increasing age. This trend is also true for start-ups. In general, the age structure of active natural persons – entrepreneurs in Slovakia corresponds to the current global trends related to the widening gap in entrepreneurship, as fewer persons aged 55 and over are currently starting their own business (compared to other age categories). In terms of the representation of active natural persons – entrepreneurs aged 55 and over in the different legal forms, they are the most represented among self-employed peasants (more than 30 % in all age categories of active natural persons – entrepreneurs). A more detailed structure of the monitored age cohort pointed to the fact that within the group of active natural persons – entrepreneurs aged 55 and over, the legal form of sole traders was the most represented among natural persons – entrepreneurs aged 55 and over.

In terms of regional representation, the target group of natural persons – entrepreneurs is most represented in the Bratislava Region. The regional age structure corresponds to the results of the Establishment Index, which showed that the elderly group outperforms the young group in the regions. From the results it can be concluded that seniors have real economic potential. The social attitude of seniors towards entrepreneurship as a suitable career choice can be said to be above average.

On the other hand, there is a low level of implemented measures to support senior entrepreneurship, with a relatively low level of infrastructure in place to support senior entrepreneurship start-ups. The question therefore remains to what extent the simultaneously widening business gap will be taken into account.

In addition to opportunities for increasing know-how transfer, the selected initiatives discussed in the analytical document also tell us about ways to raise awareness of the entrepreneurial activity of start-up entrepreneurs – seniors. One of the main areas of interest in this respect is the more dynamic involvement of people after retirement age or even earlier, i.e. in the period before retirement. Therefore, senior entrepreneurship generally already applies to people aged 50 and over who are deciding to start a business, or are in the process of setting up a business, or have already set up a business.

There are the so-called “push” and “pull” factors in senior entrepreneurship that can influence on the decision of individuals in their senior years to start a business. These “push” factors include labour market disadvantages or age discrimination. “Pull” factors include, for example, individuals’ positive perceptions of entrepreneurial opportunities, but also a desire for independence. It can also be a desire to fulfil “lifelong dreams”.

The in-depth interviews conducted provided a more detailed picture of the motives, opportunities, perceived risks and barriers, as well as attitudes towards know-how transfer on the part of the target group interviewed. It should be noted that the implementation of the in-depth interviews captured the ongoing situation with COVID-19. On the one hand, it brings opportunities, but at the same time it jeopardises the strengthening of the necessary infrastructure. The implementation of the in-depth interviews resulted in a qualitative analysis with practical recommendations.

On the positive side, there is a growing positive awareness in society as a whole of the opportunities for entrepreneurship even at an older age, and it will be essential that the level of intensity of this awareness increases over time. Strengthening the entrepreneurial activity of seniors or their support has not only a positive impact on regional development, but also an impact on the development of the economy as a whole. The so-called spillover effects in the area of know-how transfer and networking are an important strength.

In order to facilitate entrepreneurship or self-employment of the target group, it is necessary that the policy supporting the entrepreneurial activity of persons aged 55 and over develops a favourable entrepreneurial environment. Qualitative analysis has shown that building an entrepreneurial environment does not necessarily mean creating specific supporting infrastructures. It appears that it will be important to increase entrepreneurial skills, develop and support systems of guidance services and mentoring for the target group in their entrepreneurial beginnings.

Local and regional support will also be key. It will also be necessary to continue to reduce the generally excessive administrative burden and to simplify some legislation. For example, tax or levy concessions and, on the part of commercial banks, the provision of soft loans (partly with state support) can help stimulate business start-ups at an older age.