Open for Business

Migrant Entrepreneurship in OECD Countries

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Migrants contribute to the economic growth of their host countries in many ways, bringing new skills and competencies with them and helping to reduce labour shortages.  An aspect that has received only limited attention up to now is migrants’ contribution to entrepreneurial activity and employment creation in their host countries.  In OECD countries, entrepreneurship is slightly higher among immigrants than natives and the total number of persons employed in migrant businesses is substantial, although the survival rate of these businesses is often lower than that of their native counterparts. Migrant entrepreneurship has gone beyond traditional ethnic businesses, into a wide range of sectors and innovative areas.

Greater knowledge of migrant entrepreneurship is essential if policy makers are to better support migrant enterprises and their role in economic growth and job creation. In addition, increasing awareness of the positive role that migrants can play as entrepreneurs could contribute to a more balanced public debate on immigration.   Taking a cross-country perspective, this publication sheds light on these issues and more, discussing policy options to foster the development and success of migrant businesses. It is a compilation of papers presented at a June 2010 conference organised by the OECD Secretariat, with the financial support of the Swedish and Turkish authorities, and the Dutch-Turkish Businessmen Association (HOTIAD).


Shifting landscapes of immigrant entrepreneurship

Although immigrant entrepreneurship still comprises small businesses confined to lower segments of markets, today immigrant entrepreneurs are also visible in the high-value activities that characterise advanced urban economies. The potential of self-employment to open up avenues of upward social mobility has  also increased over time. This qualitative shift from low-value to high-value added business has emphasised the potential significance of immigrant entrepreneurs for the national and, in particular, local economies in settlement countries. Immigrant entrepreneurship can be characterised by a mixed embeddedness approach, which includes interaction between the personal resources of migrants, the resources of migrant communities (such as access to financial support, consumers, suppliers and advice) and the opportunities presented by the host country with respect to labour market structures and regulation, government incentives and public opinion. Among other factors that contribute to shape opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurship in a country are the specific policies implemented to promote it. 


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