Migrants as regional job creators
Key Findings – at a glance
- Migrants not only fill jobs but create them.
- Migrants are more likely to be business owners in regions than in metro areas.
- Migrant business owners that employ others are more likely to be found in regional areas.
- Migrant businesses are highly diverse and go well beyond the hospitality industry.
- Migrants share a desire to ‘give back’ to communities that embrace and support them.
Australia is a nation founded on migration. Following the end of the World War II, and the creation of Australia’s first immigration portfolio – Australia has settled more than 7.5 million people from overseas.
Nowadays, across the country, many small regional communities are actively working to attract migrants and encourage them to settle permanently, in an effort to address workforce shortages and to enable local communities to grow.
But as well as filling jobs, migrants also create them by establishing their own businesses in regions.
To date, little work has been done on regional migrant business owners and their contribution to creating new jobs in regions.
Through the Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Research Connections Initiative, Southern Cross University (SCU) has recently completed a study of migrant business ownership and entrepreneurship in regional Australia.
This study reveals that, as a proportion of all working migrants, migrants in regions are more likely to be operating a business. This confirms that regional migration is important for business ownership and entrepreneurship, as well as building the local workforce.
For areas close to our metropolitan cities, but do not have the same population – known as Connected Lifestyle Areas – 20.2 percent of all working migrants are business owners. For Heartland Regions, the figures are very similar at 17 percent.
Table 1: Migrant business owners (MBO) as a percentage of all working migrants by regional type, 2016
|Regional Type||MBOs||Other migrant workers||Total migrant workers||MBO (%)|
|Connected Lifestyle Area||15,470||60,964||76,434||20.2%|
|Industry & Service Hub||10,504||61,306||71,810||14.6%|
Source: 2016 ABS Census of Population and Housing.
Most of these regional migrant business owners are ‘small business owners’ and the study shows that this group of operators engage in are highly diverse range of industries.
This diversity should challenge some of the historical stereotypes about migrant business.
Traditionally, Chinese migrants established restaurants, as seen in many suburbs and country towns throughout the post-war period. Italian migrants have owned fruit and vegetable stores. Greek migrants established themselves in a similarly niche business category, traditionally owning one in five ‘fish shops and take-away food and milk bars’.
This latest research shows things have changed in terms of diversity of business enterprise in Australia today, with construction, and administrative and support services now topping the list in many regional areas. Migrant business ownership is not contained to particular industries, but follows the opportunities presented in the local economy.
Another significant finding that should reshape our view of the value of migration to regions is the fact that migrant business owners in regional areas are also more likely to employ other migrants who create businesses in major cities. Migrant business owners with employees (MBOWE) are present in many industries but most likely to be in rental, hiring, real estate, accommodation and food service.
Table 2 Top three MBO (MBOWE) industries by regional type, 2016
|Panel A||MBO||Panel B||MBOWE|
|Connected Lifestyle Area|
|Construction||45.7%||Accommodation & Food Services||14.0%|
|Prof. scientific and technical services||37.7%||Construction||13.8%|
|Administrative and support services||35.1%||Rental, Hiring and Real Estate||13.1%|
|Other Services||34.2%||Rental, Hiring and Real Estate||16.0%|
|Construction||34.1%||Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||14.5%|
|Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||31.6%||Accommodation & Food Services||12.2%|
|Industry & Service Hub|
|Prof., scientific and technical services||31.7%||Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||12.0%|
|Other Services||30.0%||Rental, Hiring and Real Estate||11.8%|
|Other Services||27.7%||Rental, Hiring and Real Estate||10.3%|
|Administrative and support services||23.4%||Other Services||10.1%|
|Construction||33.8%||Rental, Hiring and Real Estate||12.1%|
|Prof. scientific and technical services||32.0%||Accommodation & Food Services||11.0%|
Time spent in Australia is also key to migrant business ownership. The longer a migrant lives here, the more likely it is that they will establish a business and employ others in regional communities. This reinforces the idea that regional communities should be working hard to not only attract, but to retain migrants. They may come for a job initially, but if migrants stay in the long term, many will go on to create new local jobs.
To understand a little about why migrant business owners are more likely to be found in regions, a small group of regional migrant business owners were interviewed to determine their motivations for starting a business.
They all had a shared awareness of the impact that their business was having on the surrounding region, as well as a desire to ‘give back’ to the community that has embraced and supported them.
This study serves to reinforce the positive role that migrants play in regional Australia. Migrants are willing to fill jobs that otherwise cannot be filled in many communities and, in the long term, they create the jobs that we need to keep regions growing.
The passion that migrants have for supporting regional communities is a story that needs wider recognition. If you are a migrant business owner operating in a regional area, or know of one, tweet us @RegionalAus or email [email protected].
The full report, Evidence of Migrant Business Ownership and Entrepreneurship in Regions, will be available on the RAI website shortly.
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