The Nordic Paradox: Entrepreneurship As A Career Choice

    Are Nordic countries particularly entrepreneurial? How do our societies perceive entrepreneurship as a career choice?

    The perception already exists that the Nordic countries are among the most innovative in the world. The two most recent and comprehensive rankings supporting this belief came from the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Boston Consulting Group, both published in April 2009. The first of these studies ranked Japan as the most innovative country in the world, while in the second Singapore was at the top of the list. Nevertheless, Finland and Sweden ranked in the top ten for both reports, while Denmark and Norway also ranked impressively.

    The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s report supports the perception of entrepreneurship as a good career choice. The GEM Global 2009 report, published last January, analyzed 54 countries from all continents. The report groups the countries in three categories: factor-driven economies (primarily extractive); efficiency-driven economies (scale-intensity as a major driver of development); and innovation-driven economies (producers of new and unique goods and services via sophisticated methods). Among the Nordic countries, only Denmark, Finland, and Norway were analyzed in this report and they all belong to the innovation-driven group.

    Being an entrepreneur is an underrated career choice in the Nordic countries but conversely, societies give high status to successful entrepreneurs. The biggest contrast was found in Finland, where the society gives very high status to successful entrepreneurs (the highest among innovation-driven economies), but at the same time does not accept entrepreneurship as a good career choice. In spite of this situation, Finland is improving in this respect, which means that new generations are becoming more entrepreneurial. In Denmark there is a similar effect but it is less marked. In Norway successful entrepreneurs are public heroes too but in contrast to its neighbors, entrepreneurship is a very attractive career choice for many people.

    Not surprisingly, Nordic countries rank among the most innovative countries in the world. After my three years in Finland I agree with the conclusions of the GEM report. It seems that, especially in Denmark and Finland, the governments should improve mechanisms that encourage young and qualified people to start their own businesses, and change the societies’ perception. This is an important factor needed to foster economic development. Hopefully the trend will continue growing towards more entrepreneurship-friendly societies.