Analysis of the gender-age composition of natural persons – entrepreneurs in 2019

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Women represent the majority of the total population in both Europe and Slovakia. However, men are dominant in the conduct of entrepreneurial activity.

Slovakia is characterised within the European Union in terms of entrepreneurial activity by a below-average representation of women, a significant representation of younger age groups and a low representation of older age groups of the population. The most represented age category in Slovakia is entrepreneurs aged 40–49.

The integration of these disadvantaged groups into entrepreneurship will need adequate attention in the future. The creation as well as the further development of existing support instruments for these groups of entrepreneurs at national as well as European level by decision-makers can help sustain economic growth and boost employment in the long term. Without regular monitoring of the gender and age aspects of entrepreneurship, it would not be possible to accurately assess the extent to which the various priorities and objectives of these instruments are being met.

Female entrepreneurs start their businesses in Slovakia mainly in services sectors, which are characterised by lower capital intensity. This preference for female entrepreneurs is also reflected in the representation of female sole traders in the different sectors of the economy, with the highest representation in the other services sector. Moreover, it is the only sector with a long-term increase in the proportion of women. In 2019, female sole traders made up more than 60% of the monitored sector.

In terms of the different legal forms, women maintain an over-representation only in the case of freelancers. One of the reasons for women’s preference for freelancing is part-time self-employment in order to earn an income to supplement their employment income, and also the sheer increase in interest in freelance entrepreneurship.

Women’s entrepreneurial activity is characterised by a higher level in the regions of western Slovakia and in the northern districts of central Slovakia. The lower level of women’s entrepreneurial activity persists in regions with lower economic performance, in eastern Slovakia and in south-central Slovakia.

The specific roles that women play at a young age are also reflected in the age structure of female entrepreneurs. Female entrepreneurs are more likely to be entrepreneurs at higher ages compared to men. In contrast, the age structure of men is characterised by a higher proportion of young entrepreneurs.

The low entrepreneurial activity of women compared to the general population in Slovakia results from low self-confidence in entrepreneurial abilities or lack of perception of suitable business opportunities, but also from a stronger fear of failure. Women are also often constrained in entrepreneurship by institutional and market failures. Similarly, the tax and levy burden, insufficiently transparent legislation and the related frequent changes and access to finance are obstacles to women’s entrepreneurial activity in Slovakia.

Nevertheless, more and more women in Slovakia perceive good opportunities for entrepreneurship in their surroundings. On average, 50% of women surveyed consider entrepreneurship to be a suitable career choice. The most pronounced variation, with a higher proportion of female respondents compared to the general population, has been in the perception of fear of business failure over the recent period.

      The development of the age structure of natural persons – entrepreneurs in previous years was characterised by an increase in the representation of entrepreneurs aged up to 30 years.  In 2019, their upward trend was halted and they reached almost 17% of the population. In terms of individual sectors, the largest number of sole traders in the age category up to 30 years has been in the construction industry for a long time. Other attractive sectors for youth entrepreneurship include business services, industry, transport, information and communication activities.

In addition, the age structure of natural persons – entrepreneurs in the regions of the Slovak Republic is largely related to the age structure of economically active persons. The Žilina Region and the Prešov Region are characterised by the highest representation of young natural persons – entrepreneurs under the age of 30. In these regions, one in five entrepreneurs is less than 30 years old. Similarly, the under-30 age bracket dominated the start-up sector in 2019.

Since 2016, there has been an upward trend in the representation of young people who think they have the knowledge and skills to be entrepreneurs. On the other hand, the high self-confidence of young people may later lead to passive entrepreneurial activity and may also be one of the reasons for the low sustainability of youth entrepreneurship in Slovakia. While young Slovak entrepreneurs have almost 2 times higher potential and almost 4 times higher initial entrepreneurial activity than entrepreneurs aged 60 and over, these elderly entrepreneurs are 2 times more represented in the entrepreneurial establishment. On the other hand, since 2016, the proportion of young people who consider entrepreneurship as a suitable career choice has been declining. Similar to women, the most pronounced variation, with a higher proportion of young people compared to the general population, has been in the perception of fear of business failure over the recent period.

The share of natural persons – entrepreneurs aged 60 and over has fluctuated between 7% and 11% over the last 10 years. Self-employed peasants have the highest proportion of entrepreneurs in this age group. In 2019, one in four entrepreneurs in that legal form was over 60 years old.

The gender composition of entrepreneurs aged 60 and over shows the key position of men, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total number of natural persons – entrepreneurs.The highest share of entrepreneurs in the monitored age group is in the districts within the capital city of Bratislava and Košice. The group of districts in Slovakia with a high share of natural persons – entrepreneurs aged 60 and over is complemented by the districts of Banská Bystrica, Piešťany and Michalovce.

The barriers faced by elderly entrepreneurs are slightly different compared to other age groups. Despite being seen as having the most experience, they are often perceived by society as less flexible, committed and able to adapt to new technologies. Declining health and the opportunity cost of time are barriers primarily related to starting a business among the elderly. This group of start-up entrepreneurs is less willing to devote time to activities that generate a stream of future payments and involve some risk, such as starting a business, compared to activities that generate immediate and risk-free returns, such as working for a wage. Given that some older people enter entrepreneurship from salaried jobs and have high levels of human capital, they may not have sufficient entrepreneurial skills.

Like women, an increasing number of older people in Slovakia think there are good business opportunities in their area. Over the recent period, an average of 50% of the population in the age group surveyed believe that they have the knowledge and skills to be an entrepreneur and also see entrepreneurship as a suitable career choice.

Following the state and development of the age structure of entrepreneurs in Slovakia, more attention should be paid to improving the quality of training for young people to enter entrepreneurship due to insufficient entrepreneurial skills, lack of information, or problematic access to finance. In the context of the demographic development of the Slovak population, which is characterised by a gradual ageing of the population, the issue of using the economic potential of seniors, including the involvement of seniors in entrepreneurship and the support of start-up entrepreneurs, is increasingly coming to the fore. Public policies and support instruments designed to promote entrepreneurship should also reflect these challenges.