This topic measures the number of procedures, time, cost and paid-in minimum capital requirement for a small- to medium-size limited liability company to start up and formally operate in each economy’s largest business city.  To make the data comparable across 190 economies, Doing Business uses a standardized business that is 100% domestically owned, has a start-up capital equivalent to 10 times the income per capita, engages in general industrial or commercial activities and employs between 10 and 50 people one month after the commencement of operations, all of whom are domestic nationals.  The starting a business indicators consider two cases of local limited liability companies that are identical in all aspects, except that one company is owned by five married women and the other by five married men.  The overall score for starting a business is the average of the scores obtained for each of the component indicators.  The most recent round of data collection for the project was completed in May 2018. See the methodology for more information.

Why it Matters

In the 115 economies covered by both Doing Business and the World Bank’s Entrepreneurship Database, an estimated 2 million new limited liability companies were registered in 2016 alone. Data show that if these economies had followed best practice, their local entrepreneurs would have saved 45.4 million days spent in satisfying bureaucratic requirements. This valuable time could have been better employed focusing on firm growth, productive activities and innovative endeavors.

Entrepreneurs continue to start up and operate small- and medium-size enterprises under sub-optimal conditions in economies around the world. Aspiring entrepreneurs encounter barriers to entry while attempting to access the formal economy. Where the rules are excessively burdensome, resource-constrained entrepreneurs might not have the opportunity to turn their ideas into a business within a level playing field. Making it difficult to start a business may prevent an economy and its private sector from reaping the benefits of business formalization.

Registered companies benefit from the legal and financial services provided by courts and commercial banks, services not available to unregistered businesses. Their employees take advantage of social security protections. The economy itself benefits from positive spillovers: where formal entrepreneurship is high, job creation and economic growth also tend to be high.(1) Moreover, as more businesses formalize, the tax base expands, enabling the government to spend on productivity-enhancing areas and pursue other social and economic policy objectives.

A growing body of empirical research explores the links between business entry regulation and social and economic outcomes. Evidence suggests that regulatory reforms making it easier to start a formal business are associated with increases in the number of newly registered firms and with higher levels of employment and productivity. Conversely, overly cumbersome regulation of startups is associated with high levels of corruption and informality.(2)(3) One analysis, using data collected from company registries in 100 economies over eight years, found that a simple business start-up process is critical for fostering formal entrepreneurship.(4) Economies with cumbersome regulations and administrative procedures for starting a business are associated fewer legally-registered firms, greater informality (a finding particularly relevant for many developing economies), a smaller tax base and more opportunities for corruption compared to economies with more efficient regulation.(5)

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1.       Fritsch, Michael, and Florian Noseleit. 2013. “Investigating the Anatomy of the Employment Effect of New Business Formation.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 37 (2): 349–77.

2.       Klapper, Leora, and Inessa Love. 2011. “The Impact of Business Environment Reforms on New Firm Registration.” Policy Research Working Paper 5493, World Bank, Washington, DC.

3.       Motta, Marialisa, Ana Maria Oviedo and Massimiliano Santini. 2010. “An Open Door for Firms: The Impact of Business Entry Reforms.” Viewpoint 323, World Bank Group, Washington, DC. Available at https://www.wbginvestmentclimate.org/uploads/323-Business-entry-reforms.pdf

4.       Klapper, Leora, Anat Lewin and Juan Manuel Quesada Delgado. 2009. "The Impact of the Business Environment on the Business Creation Process." Policy Research Working Paper 4937, World Bank, Washington, DC.

5.       Audretsch, David, Max Keilbach and Erik Lehmann. 2006. Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth. New York: Oxford University Press.