Entrepreneurship Crucial in Aging Population

By Globerman, Steven; Clemens, Jason | Winnipeg Free Press, June 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Entrepreneurship Crucial in Aging Population


Globerman, Steven, Clemens, Jason, Winnipeg Free Press


Entrepreneurship is widely acknowledged as the basis for innovation, technological advancement and economic progress — and, subsequently, a driving force for improved living standards. Yet there’s little discussion, let alone action, among Canadian governments to stem the adverse effects of demographic change on entrepreneurship, specifically the aging of our population.

Most Canadians are aware our population is aging. However, it’s not generally understood that as our population ages, the share of the population best positioned to be successful entrepreneurs — individuals in their late 20s through to their early 40s — will shrink. People in this age group drive entrepreneurship because they are both willing to take risks to start their own business while also possessing real-world business experience, which increases the likelihood of success.

The share of Canadians between the ages of 30 and 39 has already declined 16.6 per cent since the 1980s, and is expected to decline by another 11.4 per cent by the 2040s.

There has also been a corresponding decline in the rate of small business startups, a key measure of entrepreneurship. The rate of small business startups declined by 8.5 per cent when comparing the six years (2001-2007) before the Great Recession to the following six years (2008-2014), the most recent data available.

And this is not a uniquely Canadian experience. Almost all industrialized countries have seen declines in small-business startups. For example, the United States experienced an 18.6 per cent decline over the same period, as did Australia (20.3 per cent) and the United Kingdom (7.5 per cent).

It’s also worthwhile noting that the total productivity performance of many Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, including Canada, has declined along with the observed fall in entrepreneurship, which highlights the far-reaching effects and implications of less entrepreneurship.

No doubt there are a host of country-specific explanations for the varying rates of entrepreneurship decline. However, the fact that all industrialized countries are experiencing population aging — at the same time as entrepreneurship decline — underscores the potential adverse effects of demographic changes on entrepreneurship.

While there’s little that governments can do to stem populations aging, a number of policy levers are available to strengthen incentives for entrepreneurship and improve the likelihood of successful new business startups. …

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