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European youth divided on appeal of entrepreneurship

20 Nov 2014Digital Society
6 minute read
  • Comprehensive Vodafone Institute survey among 6,000 young adults in six European countries
  • Three-quarters of German 18 to 30-year-olds not interested in setting up digital business or working for ICT start-up, while Spanish and Italians want to become digital entrepreneurs
  • Eighty per cent of Spanish and Italians keen to start own businesses, while only half of Germans considering entrepreneurship
  • Italian 18 to 30-year-olds surveyed pessimistic about their futures, Dutch and Germans most optimistic

Three-quarters of 18 to 30-year-olds in Germany have no interest in working for a digital start-up or setting up their own businesses in the ICT sector. However, Spanish and Italian young people have a far greater appetite to become digital entrepreneurs.

When asked if they would like to set up their own business in any sector, 80 per cent of young Italians and 78 per cent of Spanish interviewed said they would want to. This number was much lower in Germany (53 per cent) and in the UK (58 per cent).

The Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications in Germany commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey* among 6,000 young adults in six European countries, including Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic, asking for their views on the labour market, education and digitisation. The research was undertaken in advance of Vodafone’s Digitising Europe event in Berlin on 4 December, 2014 at which German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be a keynote speaker.

Spanish want to become digital entrepreneurs, Germans less keen

The majority of young people surveyed in Germany cannot imagine working for a digital start-up (70 per cent) or setting up their own business in the ICT sector (77 per cent). In contrast, in Spain and Italy there is a far higher level of digital career affinity. Sixty-one per cent of Spanish young adults surveyed would be interested in joining a start-up in the ICT sector, while 52 per cent said they would consider setting up their own digital businesses. Fifty-five per cent of Italians interviewed for the research said they would like to join a start-up in the ICT sector. A clear motivation for the Italians, Spanish and Czechs is the harsh job market.

Thirty-nine per cent of respondents in the UK and 33 per cent in Germany said they are definitely not willing to work in the ICT sector, while only eight per cent of respondents in Spain and 11 per cent in Italy said they definitely did not want careers in ICT.

Young Italians and Spanish pessimistic about their futures

The study found that the Dutch and Germans are optimistic about their futures, while Italians and Spanish surveyed for the research are more pessimistic. Only 23 per cent of Italians interviewed said they expect to have a better life than their parents’ generation, and this figure was slightly higher in Spain (29 per cent). However, German respondents were more optimistic, with 43 per cent saying they expect to have a better life than their parents. When asked about how optimistic they feel about their futures, the Dutch were most optimistic, with 71 per cent expressing optimism, while the Italians were most pessimistic, with only 41 per cent optimistic. The Germans were also more positive, with 66 per cent expressing optimism.

Italians and Spanish think they will need to move abroad to secure work

Many Italian respondents agreed that job opportunities are better in other countries and 61 per cent interviewed said they plan to move to another country for work. Attitudes towards going abroad appear to be affected by the economic situation in Spain as well, with 58 per cent of Spanish respondents saying they plan to move abroad because of job opportunities. However, in Germany, just 27 per cent said they would choose to move abroad for work.

Italians worried about their country’s competitiveness

The young adults’ assessment of their country’s competitiveness varied considerably from nation to nation. In Italy, 60 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds surveyed are concerned about their country’s competitiveness and potential future job losses as a result of digitisation. In Spain, 49 per cent are concerned. However, a much lower number of respondents expressed these concerns in the Netherlands (40 per cent), the UK (31 per cent), the Czech Republic (36 per cent) and Germany (35 percent).

Young Britons see benefits of digitisation

The research demonstrates that the UK has the highest percentage of young adults (86 per cent) who said that the benefits of digitisation far outweigh the disadvantages. Seventy-two per cent of respondents in Spain, 70 per cent in Italy and 73 per cent in the Czech Republic share this opinion. Young people who were surveyed in Germany and the Netherlands are less positive, with 69 per cent of them believing there are more benefits than risks associated with digitisation.

Closer collaboration needed between companies, schools and universities

The study also addressed the digital skills gap in the European workforce. Young Europeans surveyed suggested closer collaboration between companies, schools and universities. There was no consensus among the young adults in the surveyed countries on which institution should have overall responsibility for digital education. Half of British respondents thought that the general education system should be responsible (49 per cent). Twenty-six per cent of Germans thought that responsibility should be placed in the hands of the corporate sector, while just three per cent of UK respondents thought that companies should take the lead in digital skills training.

Other speakers at the Digitising Europe event on 4 December, 2014 include Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao and Intel President Renée James. Information on the programme and speakers can be found at The event is a collaboration between the Vodafone Institute in Germany and the Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s philanthropic arm.

Vodafone Group Foundation Director Andrew Dunnett said: “Europe faces two simultaneous and very serious challenges: chronic youth unemployment and a rapidly expanding skills gap arising from the digitisation of the workplace. The diverse responses to the survey among young people show the importance of placing the digital economy at the top of the agenda and focusing on the importance of technology in driving education and employment opportunities of the future.”

For further information:

Vodafone Group
Media Relations

Note to editors

* For more information on the Vodafone Institute survey, please visit:

About the Vodafone Institute

The Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications explores the potential of mobile and digital technologies to improve political, social and economic participation and to give better access to education. The Institute fosters dialogue between academia, business and politics. It develops dedicated projects, initiates research partnerships, and publishes studies and practical recommendations for action. Through events and social media communications the Institute provides a platform for public debate.

About Vodafone

Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and provides a range of services including voice, messaging, data and fixed communications. Vodafone has mobile operations in 26 countries, partners with mobile networks in 55 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. As of 30 September 2014, Vodafone had 438 million mobile customers and 11 million fixed broadband customers. For more information, please visit:

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