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UNECE to launch new work for better data on entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a source of innovation and productivity in the global economy. In the 20th century, economic development has relied on big businesses and mass production. Now, smaller firms and creative networks of experts provide knowledge-driven goods and services. In addition, the expansion of the Internet has made it easier for anyone to start a business. The entrepreneurial economy is gaining momentum.

As the economy stagnates and unemployment rates remain high, policy makers are hailing entrepreneurship as a solution to economic woes. However, while the media and policy makers celebrate entrepreneurs, it is startling how little we know of the factors that sustain entrepreneurship. In fact, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what entrepreneurship is regardless of the large amount of statistics we have on businesses: on their size, industry, financial statements, and business start-ups and closures.

Policy makers are looking to design policies that would create an enabling environment for starting a business. To achieve this, they need solid data, on which to base their decisions. The data about who entrepreneurs are and how they perform over time is still relatively sparse. We need a fuller, more accurate view of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial developments.

With the development of new technologies and data sources, the opportunities to describe entrepreneurship have expanded. UNECE is collaborating with OECD and Eurostat to bring together experts to improve entrepreneurship data and develop indicators to describe entrepreneurship that are more relevant. This work will involve using new and existing data sets to match employers with employees to help discern what kinds of people create start-ups, where they used to work and which factors influence their success as entrepreneurs.

By combining information from different sources, such as business registers and population and trade statistics, statisticians could build new indicators that give more insight on the globalization of businesses. These indicators could also help to determine the contribution of young entrepreneurs to economic development or the gender balance among business owners, for example. Business owners could be tracked over time to gain a better understanding of the way businesses evolve, what supports their growth and how different types of entrepreneurs contribute to GDP.

UNECE recently published the Guidelines on Statistical Business Registers, which was produced by a group of experts from national statistical offices and international organisations, including Eurostat and OECD. The Guidelines show how to improve statistical business registers, which form the foundation for producing high-quality business statistics. With better business statistics, we can measure entrepreneurship better.