Study sheds light on the ‘untold story’ of the nation’s enterprising, job-creating migrants

Usman Iftikhar, co-founder and COO of Catalysr

Australia’s 620,000 migrant-owned businesses are, through their hard work and ambition, making a significant contribution to the national economy, according to CGU Insurance.

More than 900 business owners were surveyed as part of the insurer’s Migrant Small Business Report, which it developed to shine a light on the role migrants play in Australia’s small business sector. The research revealed that four in five (83%) migrant business owners started their first business after moving to Australia, and a quarter started their business to try out an innovative or new idea (23% compared to 16% of non-migrants).

Meanwhile, one in two are aiming to generate higher revenue in the next five years (47% compared to 38% of non-migrants), one quarter are training young locals (25% compared to 19% of non-migrants) and two in five are working more than 40 hours a week (42% compared to 35% on non-migrant business owners).

According to the researchers, the finding that one in three migrant business owners are planning to engage new hires (33% compared to 25% of non-migrants) suggests – when considered together with ABS and ASBFEO data – they could potentially create up to 200,000 new jobs in the next five to 10 years.

“There are more than 620,000 migrant-owned businesses in Australia employing over 1.41 million Australians, yet the significant contribution migrant small business owners make to our country is largely an untold story,” said Kate Wellard, Small Business Spokesperson for CGU Insurance.

“Our research helps challenge perceptions that our migrants are taking more than they’re giving, and we’re keen to share this story – one of successful, hardworking and innovative migrants and the positive impact they have on our business community.

“This research shows migrant business owners are creating jobs, contributing to our economy, giving back to our communities and making our culture richer, despite the cultural barriers. This contribution deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.”

The report also found more than a third (36%) of migrant business owners believe their cultural background has helped them succeed. In addition, one in seven (14%) said their business has benefitted from the unique skills and strong work ethic their cultural background has provided them. However, the research highlights that migrant business owners are more likely than others to feel they have difficulties attracting customers (46% vs 41%) and accessing skilled workers (20% vs 16%).

“I see a lot of the hurdles that migrants need to overcome to be successful,” said Usman Iftikhar, co-founder and COO of migrant entrepreneurship program Catalysr.

“These include low self-confidence, a lack of networks and cultural barriers. But at the same time, migrants are very enterprising. They are quite resourceful, demonstrate grit, and build internal resilience to move to a new country and make a life, which makes them great candidates for entrepreneurship.

“Migrants contribute so much to Australia and I encourage those in business, or people looking at starting a business, to think of your experiences, cultural background and foreign language skills as a unique source of creativity. You can spot gaps where others might not, but first you need to try.”