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Immigrants and Entrepreneurial Opportunity Identification: The Future of Migrant Europe?

This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Conference 2019.

Nur Suhaili Binti Ramli discusses the future of migrant Europe by arguing that immigrant entrepreneurship is vital for the socio-economic future of European countries. Her preliminary findings are in juxtaposition with the OECD’s finding that migrants are concentrated in low-skilled occupations. She therefore suggests that Europe’s immigrant entrepreneurship policies should be improved and updated in order harness its benefits to society and the economy.

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Europe has long been a popular destination among immigrants. Many migrants leave their home countries to seek opportunities and a better life, particularly to more advanced countries with stable political and economic status. This includes immigrant entrepreneurs: migrants interested in venturing into businesses and expanding their businesses in various European countries.

The current systematic review into immigrant entrepreneurship enhanced the knowledge of global immigrant entrepreneurship, but it did not focus specifically on Europe and European countries. Meanwhile, another systematic review which focused on ethnic entrepreneurship in OECD countries examined the determinants of ethnic businesses. Although these studies have summarised immigrant entrepreneurship in Europe, a critical analysis of entrepreneurial opportunity identification is not available. Therefore, my research project in collaboration with Professor Finotto addresses these gaps in order to examine how immigrant entrepreneurs identify entrepreneurial opportunities in Europe.

Preliminary findings from the immigrant entrepreneurship study on identifying entrepreneurial opportunity indicate that despite language barriers, access to finance and loans, different culture and views, and bureaucracy, there still exists a keen interest in creating businesses amongst immigrant entrepreneurs, regardless of their background. Their ability to create employment for themselves and local citizens in these circumstances demonstrates that given the opportunity immigrant entrepreneurs make a significant socio-economic contribution to the economic advancement in Europe.

The results from the pilot study with a sample size of 100 respondents showed that the majority of immigrant entrepreneurs in Europe view challenges as temporary and are planning for long-term growth. Although the profits gained by a majority of the respondents are between low and medium, it offers income security, motivation, and pride for them to work harder. Most of them are highly educated, with at least a bachelor degree level, and up to a doctorate level of education.

Overall, our findings demonstrate that these immigrants can be successful entrepreneurs in Europe, especially when their knowledge and network links can be used by the host country to reduce the cost of exporting to and importing from the migrants’ country of origin or region; e.g. information and language costs.

In contrast, the International Migration Organization 2018 report indicated that foreign-born workers in the OECD countries in Europe are concentrated in low-skilled occupations despite their relatively high educational level. This contradiction may be explained by the small sample size used in our pilot study. Therefore, a large sample size from each of the EU27 countries should be collected to confirm or reject the current preliminary findings. However, there is a possibility that findings from the main study afterward could support the preliminary results. This is because it relies on systematic review and theoretical discussion of entrepreneurial opportunity identification over time, which contrast with the general conclusion presented in the OECD report.

Therefore, we argue that immigrant entrepreneurship is vital for the socio-economic future of Europe as immigrant entrepreneurs identify entrepreneurial opportunity through a different lens. From challenges and difficulties that they are facing in Europe, they can either create or exploit opportunities available to reduce unemployment, increase domestic job creation, encourage social integration through entrepreneurial activities, and strengthen the European economy through international and transnational networks between the home and host countries of the immigrant entrepreneurs. It will be particular interesting to scrutinise how they transform challenges to opportunities in the next stage of the study.

As the research is still on-going, preliminary findings indicated that immigrant entrepreneurship in Europe is crucial to local agendas and discussion. Our study is supported by the recent findings from a collaborative project between CENSIS Italy and Roma Tre University on a growing number of immigrant entrepreneurs in Italy and a positive causal effect of immigrant entrepreneurship in the last ten years. Immigrant entrepreneurship is beneficial for the internationalisation strategy to Italy and Europe while creating jobs for the local community, contribution to the economic growth, taxes contribution to pay pensioners, and helping local governments during the economic crisis.

In conclusion, this study promises interesting results upon completion and brings evidence to support the EU Entrepreneurship Action plan for migrant entrepreneurs.


Please note that this article represents the views of the author(s) and not those of the UACES Graduate Forum, UACES or JCER.

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Nur Suhaili Binti Ramli | @DrSuhailiRamli

Nur Suhaili Binti Ramli is a postdoc and an early career academic at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy. She has a PhD from the University of York, UK, and her main research interests include diaspora and immigrant entrepreneurship, marketing, strategy, and business history.



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