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The world’s richest economies are failing to tap a key source of economic growth and innovation as entrepreneurship opportunities are limited to a small group of men.

There could be an additional 9 million entrepreneurs in the European Union and 35 million across OECD countries if everyone was as active in starting and managing a new business as men aged 30 to 49, according to a study published Monday.

“Young people, women and seniors have fewer opportunities to transform their business ideas into reality,” the OECD said. “These ‘missing entrepreneurs’ are costing economies ideas, innovation and jobs.”

The Covid pandemic has made the situation worse as entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to reduce hours or close their businesses, the OECD said. It called on governments to increase finance for underrepresented groups, improve coaching programs and tailor support to needs. 

“More funding, investment in skills and support for the diverse needs of different entrepreneurs are critical for creating equality of opportunity for those aspiring to run their own business,” OECD Deputy Secretary-General Yoshiki Takeuchi said.

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