More entrepreneurs in the Netherlands

The number of people setting up their own business in the Netherlands has gradually risen since the 1990s, but the proportion of business owners was still lagging behind the EU 15 average in 2006. The investment climate in the Netherlands is compared with 19 benchmark countries.

Increase in entrepreneurs in the Netherlands

Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands grew from 10.2 to 11.5 percent of the labour force. Italy and Austria are the only countries where the proportion of entrepreneurs grew more rapidly over this period. Traditionally, these countries have many small enterprises.

Proportion of entrepreneurs

Proportion of entrepreneurs

Proportion of business owners higher than in the US

In one decade, the Netherlands managed to enter the upper half of the list of benchmark countries. Finland, Sweden and Denmark take up a strikingly low position. In other fields, e.g. R&D and innovation, the above countries indeed belong to the top of the EU benchmark list.

International comparison of the investment climate also includes countries from beyond the EU. International comparison shows that the proportion of entrepreneurs in the United States and Japan is lower than in the Netherlands. Australia, on the other hand, has a higher proportion of entrepreneurs than the Netherlands.

Dramatic increase in the number of service providers

More skilled professionals working in large companies are prepared to take the risk of starting up their own business, now that the economy is improving. This partly accounts for the increase in the proportion of entrepreneurs. The number of business service providers has risen considerably. It is indeed easier to set up one’s own business in the services sector.

Proportion of entrepreneurs 1972–2006

Proportion of entrepreneurs 1972–2006

Surrounding countries lagging behind

In 2006, the proportion of entrepreneurs in the labour force was higher than in surrounding countries like Germany, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. In the 1970s and 1980s, the number of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands diminished. During the following economic boom, the number of entrepreneurs increased and was stimulated by the rapid introduction of computers in the private sector. Computerisation facilitates outsourcing and redistribution of work.

Since 1990, the proportion of entrepreneurs in the Netherlands has been growing and was only interrupted for a short period of time by the end of 2000, when the internet hype petered out. This trend is also manifest in other countries, though not in France.

Andries Kuipers and Marcel van Wijk