In 2017, there were nearly 600 million entrepreneurs recorded, according to figures from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). There are an estimated 27 million in the United States alone, 0.05 percent of that giant worldwide figure. While the signs of growing entrepreneurship seem encouraging, are they indicative of a much larger issue throughout the world? According to a 2017 report by Oxfam, a handful of the worlds wealthiest people have more wealth than nearly 4 billion people on the planet. Even the World Economic Forum, which is a meeting of the worlds most influential and wealthiest reported growing wealth inequity as one of the world’s top issues. This poses a unique situation in which entrepreneurs may proliferate, but without adequate capital are unable to gainfully impact their local communities or create additional jobs through the kind of expansion capitalization provides.
The 2017 GEM report is also important, because it shows the precipitous rise of entrepreneurship from 2012 when that number hovered around 400 million entrepreneurs worldwide. And while respondents were tapped from over 65 economies in the report, it is curious to note whether the report included non-traditional entrepreneurs in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America—individuals who sell goods by the road, from their home, or at informal markets throughout the developing world. While we may think these are non-traditional “businesses” these enterprises represent a model that has been employed throughout the world for many centuries.
These non-traditional entrepreneurs in developing economies, are likely more closely related to the United State’s growing “gig economy” where many U.S. citizens now work contract or freelance. According to a study by Intuit led by Emergent Research, that market is predicted to grow to nearly 43 percent by 2020 facilitated by advances in technology and telecommunications. Also known as the On-demand economy, freelancing and contract gigs like Uber, made up 36 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2015 alone. Despite its popularity, the gig economy might be indicative of a more disturbing phenomenon indicative of a waning U.S. economy.
In the U.S., women entrepreneurship is also one of the fastest growing sectors of the market, with African American women leading the pack. A Booz and Company study indicates that worldwide, nearly 900 million women who have never previously worked or been in business will enter the market within the next 10 years. Economically inactive citizens may be forced to take part in the formal economy. Many of these developments are due to wealth stratification as well as aggressive NGOs proliferating in the developing world. These groups specifically target rural women for work/business initiatives funded by special interest groups from rich nations, with the objective to stem growing birthrates or increase education.
In the final analysis, it is unclear whether the United States will address the unique needs of its growing gig economy, in terms of tax and healthcare law as well as long term retirement instruments to accommodate a new and disparate market which is devouring America’s traditional workforce. Worldwide, it will be noteworthy to see whether developing economies like Angola, Cambodia and Panama will provide the critical capital necessary to move its own non-traditional entrepreneurs toward stability and growth.