Behind the Scenes of GEM’s Adult Population Survey
Entrepreneurship promotes the necessary innovation to exploit new opportunities, promote productivity, and create employment. Governments worldwide will are looking to foster entrepreneurship in response to the pandemic. Policymakers and other stakeholders will increasingly need hard, robust, and credible data to make key decisions related to this topic. Hence the importance of GEM’s Adult Population Survey (APS).
Francis Carmona leads GEM’s Data Team and provides insights into the unique characteristics of the APS in the below Q and A.
What is the APS?
The APS enquires about the attitudes and activities of a random sample of at least 2,000 adults (and often more) aged 18-64 years, in each economy. It captures the attitudes, behaviours, and expectations of individual adults.
How is the APS conducted?
The survey is conducted via a mix, appropriate to each economy, of face-to-face or telephone interviews, increasingly supplemented by online participation. It uses the same questions in each country to find out whether the adult is involved in starting or running a new or established business, and about individual attitudes and perceptions of entrepreneurship, alongside demographics such as age, gender, and education.
What makes the APS different from other entrepreneurship surveys?
The APS data provides insight into the individual decision to start or continue a business, and the entrepreneurial journey from intentions through to business conception, business birth, and subsequent growth and development. This makes it very different to surveys of businesses and firms, and different to official government statistics such as business registrations.
As individual responses are completely confidential and anonymised, the APS can also provide information on the elusive “hidden” or informal economy, involving unregistered and unrecorded economic activities and jobs. This can be a significant part of the national economy beyond the reach of official statistics, especially in developing countries.
What are examples of questions that are asked via the survey?
Examples of questions related to attitude and perceptions are whether it is easy to start a business, whether there are good business opportunities, and whether fear of failure is an obstacle.
Other questions focus on whether that person is actively starting a new business or running an established business, whether they are doing so on behalf of their employer, and what are their motivations. This enables the APS to cover all levels of the entrepreneurial process, from those with intentions to start a business, to those actively starting but not yet trading (the nascent entrepreneur), to those running a new business (the new business owner), as well as those owning and running an existing established business.
Other questions focus on whether individuals have exited a business (and if so, why?), whether that business still continued after their departure, and whether they had invested in someone else’s new business venture. All of these are important dimensions of the entrepreneurial landscape for a particular economy.
How has GEM innovated with the APS in 2020/2021 due to the pandemic?
As the pandemic was starting to unfold, we acted quickly to respond. First, we had to adjust our timeline. By the middle of March 2020, it became clear that conducting the APS during our typical period of data collection would be impossible for most teams. We had to allow teams to collect their sample later in the year. Next, given the lockdown measures many countries were enacting and the general safety protocols, many of the teams that rely on face-to-face data collection switched to collecting a fixed line and/or mobile phone sample.
Lastly, we saw the unique position GEM was in. We are an organisation that collects economy-based nationally representative samples all around the world. There are plenty of groups collecting samples and perhaps even nationally representative samples, but few collecting as many nationally representative samples using data collection standards as rigorous as the ones we use. Given the need for information regarding the impact of the unfolding pandemic on entrepreneurship, we revised our 2020 APS Questionnaire, incorporating many coronavirus-related items. As the pandemic has continued into 2021, we once again revised our APS Questionnaire so we can gather information on how the pandemic, in its second year, has impacted entrepreneurship.
We previously provided analysis of GEM’s National Expert Survey in this article.
Interested in forming a team in your country so you can leverage the NES and GEM’s other research tools? Learn more at this link.