The results of the world's largest study of entrepreneurial activity "Global Entrepreneurship Monitor — 2021/2022" (GEM), with participation of entrepreneurs from 50 countries, have been announced. According to the study, 11.7% of the Russian population are entrepreneurs.
In Russia, since 2006, the project has been implemented by the research group of the Graduate School of Management St. Petersburg University (GSOM SPbU), and since 2018, with the financial support of Sberbank.
According to the results of a national study, in Russia in 2021, 8.3% of the adult working population are early-stage entrepreneurs: these are people 18-64 years old who are in the process of starting a business (3.7% of the Nascent Entrepreneurs ) or who own or manage a new business for less than three and a half years (new business owners — 4.7%). The share of people whose business has been on the market for more than three and a half years (Established Business Owners) was 3.4%, which is 25% lower than in 2019-2020.
Conditions for the start of business
Despite the economic crisis, in 2021 the assessment of the availability of favorable opportunities for starting a business in the Russian regions where respondents live remained at the level of 2020 (33.5%). This is the highest value since 2010.
In 2021, the assessment of the level of knowledge, experience and skills for doing business remained at the same level as in 2020. 34.5% of individuals assess their knowledge and experience as sufficient to start a business. Since 2012, there has been a steady increase in this indicator. Given that the requirements for the skills and competencies of an entrepreneur, especially under the influence of digitalization and changes in the external environment, are constantly increasing, then even maintaining a current level of entrepreneurs's self-esteem can be a good indicator of the presence of educational initiatives. Nevertheless, according to this indicator, Russia consistently occupies one of the lowest places among all the project's countries.
In 2021, the number of those wishing to start a business turned out to be twice as high as the number of respondents involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity (about 6.6%). The presence of a large number of people intending to take up entrepreneurship, along with the provision of a favorable business environment, can contribute to the growth of the number of entrepreneurs, even in times of global crises.
Women in entrepreneurship
In Russia the early entrepreneurial activity of male entrepreneurs still exceeds the activity of female ones: 10.2% of men and 6.6% of women are involved in the creation of a new business. Although the rates for men and women since 2019 remain above the average for previous years of the study, it is clear that the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact on women's early entrepreneurial activity. After an expected overall decrease in activity for both sexes in 2020 (9.7% men, 7.3% women) compared to 2019 (10.2% men, 8.6% women), in 2021 this figure for men returned to the maximum pre-pandemic value, while among women, early-stage entrepreneurial activity continues to decline.
The same trend is illustrated by the gender gap in early entrepreneurial activity. In general, until 2019, the ratio of the activity of women and men reflected the instability of the gender distribution and the spasmodic nature of the involvement of women in early entrepreneurship. Thus, since 2013, with the overall predominance of male entrepreneurs, a more even gender distribution has alternated (for example, in 2013, 2016 and 2019) and a more pronounced gap between representatives of both sexes (in 2012, 2014 , 2018). In 2020 and 2021, the gender gap began to slowly shift again in favor of male entrepreneurs, returning to the levels of 2012 and 2014, when there were about two male entrepreneurs for every female entrepreneur.
Thus, the 2021 indicates that in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, male entrepreneurs have adapted more quickly to the changed conditions and were able to return to initiatives related to starting a business. Women entrepreneurs were more susceptible to negative economic conditions: they turn to entrepreneurial initiatives in more favorable periods for the economy and are more likely to choose employment during periods of economic crisis. In 2021, the ratio of early-stage to experienced female entrepreneurs shifted slightly towards new business start-ups. In general, it can be noted that in the past two years, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, men have shown a greater willingness to look for opportunities to start a business in the new economic realities. Women, on the other hand, demonstrate more cautious entrepreneurial behavior in the context of adapting to the crisis, combining new entrepreneurial initiatives with the preservation of existing businesses.
Use of digital technologies
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the digitalization of businesses: employees can work remotely, almost everything can be ordered online, some processes in the production of goods and the provision of services were automated. As part of the GEM project in 2021, entrepreneurs were asked questions about the introduction of digital technologies in the activities of their companies. The majority of respondents (51%) noted that their companies can operate without the use of technology to sell goods and services. At the same time, 25.5% reported that the digitalization of their businesses is not related to the pandemic. Finally, 23% of respondents answered that they either introduced digital technologies in response to the pandemic or expanded their plans for their use with the start of the spread of COVID-19. Entrepreneurs talked about their plans to increase the use of digital technologies in the next 6 months. 56% of early-stage entrepreneurs are either confident in the need to intensify work in this direction, or assess such a prospect as possible. The remaining 44% have no plans to further introduce digital technologies into their businesses.
Social and environmental responsibility of entrepreneurs
3.3% of early stage and 64.5% of Established Business Owners said they consider social aspects such as access to education, healthcare, safety and working and living conditions when making decisions about the future of a business. Similar assessments were demonstrated by entrepreneurs when answering the question of whether they take into account such environmental aspects as the preservation of green spaces, the reduction of toxic emissions when making decisions about the future of business (69.6% and 66.4%, respectively). Those who do not take into account social aspects turned out to be more than those who do not take into account environmental aspects in both groups of entrepreneurs.
The changes also affect the goal-setting system of entrepreneurs. Respondents were asked to rate whether they value social or environmental impact over profitability or business growth. In Russia, 40.1% of early stage and 36.4% of experienced entrepreneurs felt that they prioritized non-economic goals.
The adoption of new standards is not just declared: entrepreneurs are ready to take concrete steps to minimize the impact of business on the environment 36.6% of early-stage entrepreneurs and 39.4% of Established Business Owners said they had taken actions in this direction. The social effect worries Russian entrepreneurs less than the environmental one. The presence of steps to maximize the social effect taken over the past year was reported by 30.3% of early-stage and 26.6% of experienced entrepreneurs.