First came the pandemic, followed by months of dramatic spikes in energy prices, all of which were further exacerbated by the Russian war in Ukraine. Businesses are experiencing crisis after crisis, a phenomenon that is increasingly weighing on them financially, but also mentally.
The cost of electricity for a business has more than doubled, while natural gas bills have increased 2.5 times since the beginning of the year, a National Bank study showed. Labour costs are also breaking records due to automatic indexation, and business owners are struggling to pass on these costs.
As a result of these mounting problems, as many as 65% of entrepreneurs in Belgium are worrying about the future of their businesses on a daily basis, a survey by HR services group Liantis among 1,568 Belgian entrepreneurs showed. Six in ten indicated they literally lie awake because of the rising costs, which are the main driver for concerns.
"We have been going from crisis to crisis for a couple of years now and it weighs heavily on entrepreneurs, not only financially but also mentally. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel," said Karel Van den Eynde, self-employment expert at Liantis.
The survey showed that this stress level among business owners has been rising since the start of the health crisis and "hardly seems to be decreasing." Aside from stress, almost 60% noted they feel tired most to all of the time, while half often feel that things are "becoming a bit too much."
Young and self-employed drowning
Young people are even more affected by these mental struggles, with 73.9% of 18- to 30-year-olds saying they often or always suffer from stress. "They are at the beginning of a career, have invested and have not yet had the chance to build up sufficient reserves. Then it is obvious that you worry about the future," said Van den Eynde
The situation among the self-employed is equally worrying, as the number of people indicating they experience stress "as good as always" has been rising for several years and remains very high.
In light of these figures, UNIZO (the Union of Self-Employed Entrepreneurs) and Liantis are looking to work together on the mental well-being of entrepreneurs with the project "Stronger Entrepreneurship Together," supported by Federal Minister David Clarinval.
UNIZO is also calling on the government to create a separate health budget for entrepreneurs.