23 August 2023

Australia’s small business owners are rapidly getting older as the proportion of younger entrepreneurs shrinks, according to research from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Bruce Billson said the most common age of small business owners across Australia is 50 years, compared to 45 years in 2006.

“In the 1980s there were actually twice as many small business owners aged between 30 and 49 as there were aged over 50,” Mr Billson said.

“The Intergenerational Report being released by the Treasurer this week highlights the ageing of the population and the quest to make our economy larger to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

“Small business, which accounts for 97 per cent of all businesses and provides jobs for over 5.1 million people and employs 42 per cent of all apprentices and trainees, stands at the epicentre of this mission and energising enterprise will help deliver the growth to meet future needs.

“But the small business sector faces its own demographic challenges with only 8 per cent of small business owners aged under 30. It is half the peak for this age group of 17 per cent achieved in the mid-1970s.”

Mr Billson said in some sectors it was even lower, such as retail where only 6 per cent of small business owners are aged under 30.

“We need to replenish and nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs, value self-employment and encourage and enable smaller enterprises and the livelihoods they make possible,” Mr Billson said.

“We need to understand why it is not as appealing as it perhaps should be for younger Australians to own a small business?”

More than one in five small business owners (22 per cent) are aged 60 and over.

In agriculture, forestry and fishing two-thirds of small businesses are owned by people over the age of 50.

Other sectors where more than 50 per cent of small business owners are aged 50 or over include manufacturing, retail, finance and insurance, real estate, wholesale trade, utilities and waste services.

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