Migrant entrepreneurship

Alternative paradigms of economic integration

Authored by: Jan Rath , Veronique Schutjens

Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138794313
eBook ISBN: 9781315759302
Adobe ISBN: 9781317638773


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The economic integration of migrants offers opportunities and poses challenges to host societies all over the world. Migration has diverse and specific characteristics, and constitutes a pool of cheap workers at the lower end of the market, willing to do dirty, dangerous and dull work, as well as a growing pool of flexible workers at the higher end of the skills set. Indeed, the vast majority of international migrants are economically active as wage earners, but in every country, a relatively small number choose self-employment and become entrepreneurs. This chapter seeks to highlight this particular form of economic integration of migrants for three reasons:

First, the economic impact of migrant entrepreneurs is significant, not only in terms of “traditional” micro-economic indicators—such as personal income, number of employees, added value, and so forth—but also in terms of innovation, market change, and larger economic outreach. Migrant entrepreneurs discover, develop, seize, and exploit new markets, with or without ethnically specific products, processes, and ways of doing business. Migrant entrepreneurs also help foster third-party entrepreneurial activities—ethnic and native alike.

Second, ethnic entrepreneurs are often involved in transnational business activities that affect both the host and receiving societies, and sometimes even other countries. As such, their socio-economic influence is literally far reaching.

Third, while entrepreneurship is on the rise in general, the rate of migrant entrepreneurship has grown at a quicker pace. The decision to become self-employed can be the result of pull or push factors due to the emergence of new economic opportunities or to blocked mobilities, as it is for native entrepreneurs as well.

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