Focus Topic n#2: : Migrants Entrepreneurship

  • MILE 

INTRODUCTION: Migrants Entrepreneurship in Europe, by ICEI

For migrants, employment is not only a source of income, but also a pivotal activity to improve their integration more broadly. First, because it introduces the person in a diverse environment, where to establish relationships with local citizens; secondly, having a salary, makes possible to fulfill primary needs and have resources for more socially related activities. Thirdly, it introduces the migrant worker to the local culture of work. It is extremely important for promoting a balanced integration allowing immigrants to develop their ideas in entrepreneurship. This favors the whole society, as often migrants contribute with successful ideas that can enrich our market. Moreover, generally economic migrants are dynamic and eager to work (Zimmerman 2014: 4, 6) also because migrating itself is a process requiring great investments of economic and symbolic capital that has to be recovered.
A migrant entrepreneur is defined as “a foreign- born business owner or a member of an ethnic minority born in the receiving country, who seeks to generate value through the creation or expansion of economic activity, by identifying new products, processes or markets. The entrepreneur can be self-employed; he/she can employ only him/herself, or employ staff.” (; issue n#18, May2018)Nowadays, the EU lags behind other countries like the United States or Canada in attracting qualified migrant entrepreneurs. Most jobs in the EU are created by SMEs, in particular micro enterprises in the first 3-5 years. To create more jobs, it is therefore important to have more entrepreneurs and to help those with growth potential to expand. The EU Labour Force survey showed that the trend of migrant entrepreneurship varies across the EU, with the share of migrant entrepreneurs in total employment being 1.5 to 2.9 percentage points higher than natives in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. However, there is a lower share of migrant entrepreneurs when compared with natives in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Germany and Austria.
Researches reveal that migrants are more prone to set up their own business compared to EU citizens with a non-migrant background. This propensity is also due to the selective dimension of migration processes and the immigrants’ tendency to take greater risks. In some countries, migrants’ higher propensity to self-employment may stem from difficulties to access the host country’s labour market, and/or climbing the career ladder. Thus, migrants often resort to entrepreneurship as a way of overcoming barriers to employment and career progression in their receiving countries (EU Conference on Migrant Entrepreneurship Background Paper: February 2016). However, the comparison with non-migrants indicates that migrant entrepreneurs create less jobs. This may be because the vast majority of their new businesses are micro companies with less than ten employees. In regards to turnover, profit and survival rates they are relatively small compared to natives. (Ibid)

The promotion of migrant entrepreneurship is incorporated in the Europe 2020 strategy, including a blueprint for joint action to remove barriers and create a supportive environment. However, much depends by how national states and their economies decide to set priorities and according actions. The plan sets out 3 different action pillars:
• Entrepreneurial education and training
• An environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and grow
• Role models and outreach to specific groups.
The action plan provides common policy framework and supporting measures, which should help EU countries as they further develop and strengthen their national integration policies for third country nationals through tailored business training and mentoring. The Commission also identify best practices to promote and support migrant entrepreneurship and would fund pilot projects for their dissemination.
For more information, visit the The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan’s website.

NOTE: 1) Entrepreneurial diversity in unified Europe, Ethnic minority entrepreneurship/migrant entrepreneurship, IMES and Triodos Facet for the European Commission, 2008
2)Map of services providers in the EU and working paper on state of the art of coaching and mentoring schemes for migrant entrepreneur, European Migrant Entrepreneurship Network (EMEN) (2018)

  1. Best practices in the Metropolitan City of Milan

Previously, we cited the The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan and it promotes and supports migrants’ entrepreneurship at European level. Here, we will present some of the best practices implemented in Italy and in particular in the city of Milan, where ICEI is based.
First of all, recent data shows us that the phenomenon of migrants’ entrepreneurship is growing in Italy, with a total of 708.949 entrepreneurs born outside the country, representing the 9,4% of the total. The trend is +41% over the last 10 years. They mainly come from China, Morocco and Romania, investing in construction, food industry, manufacturing, services and agriculture (Annual Report on Economy of Migration October 2019, Leone Moressa Foundation). The Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce underlines how this is now a structural part of the national economy, not just in terms of dimensions but also of diffusion on the territory. In fact, their research reveals how migrants’ enterprises are present in almost every city in Italy, 95% of the total municipalities in the country (UNIONCAMERE-INFOCAMERE, Report on Territorial Diffusion of Individual Enterprises, 2019). Milan is one of the main attractive set for migrants willing to start a business. However, migrant entrepreneurs still face barriers in having access to bank loans and investments, to scale up their business and ensure continuity in the long term. (Migrants Entrepreneurs in Milan: a resource for the city, an opportunity to the system. Position paper, CESPI, 2019).
Many are the activities supporting migrant entrepreneurs in Milan. For Example, CeSPI (Research Centre of International Politics) is coordinating since 2013 a permanent National Observatory on the Financial Inclusion of Migrants, regularly researching and publishing data and analysis with particular attention to the cities of Milan. The Observatory is in constant contact with local stakeholders promoting space for networking (ex. Financial Institutes, Third Sector Organisations, Employers, Migrants Communities and more).
MILE’s coordinator, ICEI, is partner of the project Me4Change, “Migrants Empowerment for Change”, supported by the European Commission (DG Growth Call for proposals 225-G-GROPPA- 16-9233 “Entrepreneurial capacity building for young migrants”). It aims at create, improve and promote the spread of European and national programmes supporting young migrant entrepreneurs. This project has produced analysis in the four partner countries (Italy, Belgium, Finland and Germany), to evaluate market trends, obstacles, challenges and success factors.
ICEI also supports projects such as MEGA – Migrant Entrepreneurship Growth Agenda, implemented in Italy by Formaper and financed by COSME 2014-2020. MEGA helps cities, regions and national actors to strengthen policies supporting businesses with an international background. Active also in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, it promotes and spread measures and sustainable coalitions for policy change, providing materials, resources and handbooks.
Another best practice in Milan (also part of MILE’s network), is SINGA. Started as a citizen’s movement, it promotes labour integration through two programmes: Professional Mentoring, dedicated to migrants who needs guidance to enter in the labour market; and Business Lab, supporting migrants to start a business in Italy through workshops and mentoring, co-working and networking.
In addition, the project Enterprise4Integration, coordinated by Soleterre, offers to migrant entrepreneurs services supporting them in developing business activities, such as dealing with bureaucratic, legal and administrative problems and involving 60 entrepreneurs and 30 aspiring entrepreneurs in a training processes.
However, as the Yearly Statistical Report on Migration in Italy just recently published by IDOS underlined, in the face of so many good practices, there is still no national integration political project and a thousand virtuous experiences, do not outline a project for the country.

2. Best practices in the Austria and the region of Tyrol

In general, it can be said that a relatively high number people with international migration experience in Austria are active entrepreneurs. Due to language barriers, discrimination and difficulties in employers’ recognition of foreign qualifications, migrants are often disadvantaged in finding employment. These barriers make it more attractive for many immigrants to use their skills as self- employed and entrepreneurs, rather than as employees in the labour market. Moreover, in some regions, immigrants benefit from the support of ethnic communities. These networks can facilitate the exchange of knowledge and goods between countries and facilitate access to labour, and start-up capital information for setting up a business.

In 2016 there were almost 49.400 self-employed persons with non-Austrian citizenship. In addition to these there are about 25.000 self-employed persons who have Austrian citizenship but were born abroad (naturalised persons). Roughly speaking, it can be assumed that of the 74.400 self-employed with a migrant background about one third was born abroad but now hold the Austrian citizenship.
The largest portion of migrant entrepreneurs are persons from other EU member states (Rumania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia). (Migration and Integration Report 2019 - Popular sectors in which companies are founded by Migrants are services (such as cleaning, restaurants, or food production), as well as retail trade and manufacturing (clothing, leather ware, shoes, and textile production, or repairs) and transport.
The majority of enterprises with a migration background can be assigned to the category of small and medium-sized enterprises. About a quarter of the enterprises do not have any employees, about half of the enterprises have between one and nine employees. The remainder have at least ten employees.

Also MILEs project partner Verein Multikulturell ( in Tyrol, Austria is involved in promoting and supporting migrant entrepreneurs at local and European level as there are – similar to Italy – no official national integration programs for business start-ups. Verein Multikulturell is partner of the project TASKFORCOME ( Supported by the European Commission TFC addresses two of the biggest societal challenges, which central Europe faces today the integration of migrants into the labour market and social systems, and the systematic realisation of social innovation. Together the 12 European partners want to increase engagement and commitment of key actors in social innovation. More concretely the partners will improve the skills and develop targeted support for migrants and social entrepreneurs, and elaborate policy frameworks and related funding instruments. New learning tools will be developed as well as training packages and one-stop-shops that will be piloted in the participating regions.
Verein Multikulturell as project partner in CHEER – Cultural Heritage Entrepreneurship ( ), financed by Erasmus+. CHEER aims at promoting social entrepreneurship in Europe through supporting and guiding of unemployed people to start their own social business. The idea is to create a European wide training programme that will help long term unemployed boost their competences and feel confident to make their entry in social entrepreneurship.
Another best practice in Innsbruck (also part of VM’s network), is INNCUBATOR ( The InnCubator assists young founders in their development as entrepreneurs and supports above all companies and start-up teams in the early start-up phase. The service offered is individually and flexibly tailored to the start-ups and draws on the power of the networks of the University and the Chamber of Commerce. InnCubator wants to promote entrepreneurial thinking in Tyrol, inspire entrepreneurs to start up and sustainably strengthen the ecosystem for founders. Part of the service is the INNC Programm ( During the three-month INNC program, start-up teams receive workshops on relevant start-up know-how, regular feedback from experts and support in idea development, a personal mentor*in, the joint development of milestones, network events, access to a fully equipped prototype workshop, and a free workplace in the 400 sqm Co-Working Space.
In addition, The Start Up Tirol GmbH ( start-up centre is part of the STARTUP.TIROL network and combines the strengths of many existing start-up initiatives in Tyrol with the aim of supporting entrepreneurs and start-up companies and jointly creating an attractive start-up location in Tyrol.

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