Business leaders are turning gray

  • More and more independent entrepreneurs continue to work until an advanced age.
  • Reason: inadequate pensions and the love of the trade.

The aging population is working its way into the heart of companies.

This impression has been filtering in for several years. Now, however, the independant entrepreneur neutral union (SNI) and the minister of independent entrepreneurs are tallying the trend.

The union performed a study using Inasti data. The results show that in 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, the number of independent entrepreneurs over 60 years old has grown by 47%. It has gone from 101,795 to 149,227, according to SNI. Is this a direct effect of the increase in the numbers of independent entrepreneurs over the last few years? The SNI’s answer is negative in view of the numbers. “The total number of independents has grown by 24% over the last decade. The growth in the numbers of older independents has shown a much greater increase.”

The proportion of people over 60 in the independent population has logically grown over the same period. It represented 12.8% of independents ten years ago. Now it accounts for 15%. The minister of independent entrepreneurs, Sabine Laruelle (MR) has made the same observation. The minister became interested in the over-65 group. This increase is also significant.  Between 2008 and 2012, the number of independents over 65 has grown by 23.55%,” she explained in response to a parliamentary question published last week. At the end of 2012, over 65,000 independents were still working in their companies. These older independents are more likely to be male (46,797) than female (18,261).

There are several explanations for this trend. Those explanations are difficult to put in order of importance due to the variety of individual situations. But the SNI, the Union of Middle Classes (UCM) and the minister of independent entrepreneurs have come to the conclusion that for some of these enterprise heads, the pensions are not adequate. They are thus forced to continue working, at times, reluctantly. “The average monthly pension for an independent is € 787.  By comparison, the pension for a civil servant (€2,262) and of an employee (€1,220) is much higher,” reveals the SNI.

Other factors also come into play. One reason is the ever-increasing difficulty in transitioning one’s business under good conditions. “It’s becoming more and complicated for an entrepreneur to find a buyer simply because no potential buyers are showing any interest,” explains Christine Mattheeuws, president of SNI. This is a perilous development for the union. It could spell the end of useful professions.  “We are already seeing it among tailors and cobblers.”

The UCM is also seeing growth in the liberal professions because “these are professions that are less demanding than others. It’s not a rarity to see these professionals continue working to a very advanced age.”

Finally, there is a completely positive explanation. Many entrepreneurs love what they do and don’t want to quit, especially since they’re healthier than ever. They are less prone to quitting if nothing is forcing them to do so, and they can continue well beyond the legal retirement age.

BERNARD DEMONTY

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