Unizo, which represents self-employed businesses, is predicting a much steeper fall in the number of independent businesses as older people retire and fail to be replaced by younger businesses. To combat that effect, Unizo is calling for a range of measures to improve the safety net for the self-employed, among them an increase in the minimum pension to bring it closer to the pension available to former employees.
Van Eetvelt was responding to figures released by the RSVZ, the state institute for social insurance for independents, which showed an increase of 1.16% in the number of self-employed, to 934,642. This includes 205,000 people who have started a business in addition to their main employment – a rise of 3.11%. By contrast, the number whose business is their sole source of income went up by only 0.32%.
Unizo’s own figures, Van Eetvelt said, are based not on people but on the number of businesses, which could be started up by more than one person. Taking that into account, numbers have been falling for two years in a row. The baby-boomers, Van Eetvelt said, “are camouflaging, for the time being at least, the fall in the number of new businesses. Once the baby-boomers retire, that fall will become clearer.”
On 1 June, meanwhile, a new system was launched that should make it easier to start up a business by making it no longer necessary to have a large capital sum. In theory, a business can now be started under the startersbvba system with as little as €1 capital.
At present, according to figures from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, barely three in 100 people in Flanders either has a business or has been involved in setting one up in the last 3.5 years. The new system should improve this rate.
However, the system has its limits and its risks: after five years or at the stage where the start-up is employing five people (whichever comes first), the company’s capital needs to be raised to the level of a normal company – currently €18,550. The entrepreneur will then have to draw up a proper business plan with the help of an accountant or financial adviser. Until that capital level is reached, the entrepreneur remains personally responsible for the company’s debts.