Chart: Where People Want to Work for Themselves

People in some countries are more interested in self-employment than people in other nations. A 2009 survey funded by the European Commission queried over 25,000 randomly chosen individuals aged 15 and 64 in 36 nations about whether they would rather run their own business or work for someone else. The survey found that the fraction that would prefer self-employment ranged from 25.6 percent in Slovakia to 71.4 percent in China.

So where is America on the list? The U.S. had the fourth highest share of people who would rather be self-employed among the 36 nations investigated, coming in at 54.8 percent.

Where people prefer to start a businessClick to see larger chart

What do you think explains the differences across countries in people’s interest in self-employment? Is it national culture, the economic system, the political regime, or something else?


Scott Shane Scott Shane is A. Malachi Mixon III, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of nine books, including Fool's Gold: The Truth Behind Angel Investing in America ; Illusions of Entrepreneurship: and The Costly Myths that Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By.

4 Reactions
  1. Really? The Chinese want to be self-employed at that rate? Seems contradictory to both their culture and government.

  2. I came from a Chinese family and both my parents are entrepreneurs, I also have a lot of relatives that when they migrated to other countries, they have became entrepreneur themselves. I believe it’s inherent to the Chinese people to be risk-taker and are not afraid to put up their own business and being their own boss. I believe also that when they migrated to other countries, they usually start out as peddlers then later grew their business into something big. Those are usually the origins of business tycoons who are already based in Philippines, e.g. John Gokongwei whose life was that of rugs to riches. According to my mom, it’s because of the hard life in China (especially those experienced by the older generation) that made them devise of a way to be self-employed.

  3. Martin Lindeskog


    When I visited Hong Kong in 1992 I saw a very strong work ethics and entrepreneurial spirit. The problem is if you have a political system that is killing the productiveness and the free-market. That is why Taiwan became so successful. The productive individuals who had a chance to leave Communist China, went to Taiwan.


    I understand that only 1/3 of the individuals in Sweden is open to self-employment, due to the long tradition of a huge public sector and the ingrained notion that the only option is to have one full-time job, being employed.

  4. Like Robert, I was amazed. If that stat comes true, the world will be a much different place!