The aim of the project ‘Network for Migrant Entrepreneurs to Scale Up and Grow’ is to contribute to the effective engagement of diverse European actors in improvement and promotion of existing schemes and lobbying for more opportunities for creation and growth of migrant enterprises. It responds to the European Commission’s COSME objective ‘to support actions that bring relevant players at national and regional levels into trans-national networks, to work together based on the existing evidence of what is effective and to achieve better impact’, since it assumes the creation of the new European Migrant Entrepreneurship Network (EMEN).
Being a joint initiative of five organisations SPARK, KIZ, PerMicroLab, Auto Ocuapcio and Youth Business International coming from the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain and the last one being an international network based in UK, the project envisages creating a larger partnership with different public and private players supporting migrant entrepreneurship in 10 EU member states.
The newly created network will bring together more than 30 diverse actors (public and private organisations) in a peer-learning, peer-exchange experience of a joint collaboration. In the light of the refugees crisis in Europe, this project hopes to contribute to the current debate and offer effective solutions on how refugees can be successfully integrated in their new societies, but also on how existing micro businesses run by migrants can be transformed into SMEs, and an opportunity for job creation in Europe.
Learn more about this project via the EMEN-UP website.
Migrants struggle to assimilate to economic status of the natives. Refugees are even more vulnerable, since it takes them up to 20 years to have a similar employment rate as the native-born, according to the latest OECD report. When migrants do have jobs, these are inappropriate to their qualifications, low-paid and precarious, while the native-borns are protected by legislation and favourable collective bargaining arrangements. Research suggests that ‘employers are unwilling to invest into migrants’ skills’.
Entrepreneurship is viable solution to the difficulties migrants face in accessing employment. In the field of entrepreneurship as in employment, migrants also face discrimination - heavy administrative burdens, difficulties to obtain finances, ‘closed’ doors to mainstream economy, business associations and networks. Apart from this, their social realities include insecure status deriving from ineffective asylum and migration policies and increased vulnerability (particularly for women), as observed by CSOs working in the field. Despite of this structural discrimination, migrants have higher creation business rates than the rest of the population (since ‘forced’ to resort to creation of their own jobs).
However, their businesses are mainly micro-businesses with no or very few employees and very few opportunities to grow. Through the project partners’ previous experience in provision of services to migrants, an obvious lack of information and support on how to get business of the ground quickly, how to access to finance for scaling up, and how to lobby for a more enabling regulatory environment has been noticed. Businesses led by migrants are much smaller in comparison with native-born businesses as regards turnover and profit, as stated in the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan.
Migrant entrepreneurship is important, since it: empowers migrants to gain economic independence; promotes values of economic and social justice; combats discrimination and facilitate social integration; and contributes both to the economy of the European Union and their countries of origin. In addition, after starting up their business, migrants should have access to equal opportunities to scale up their micro-businesses into SMEs, employ more people and make more significant turnovers.
This project firstly tackles the insufficient number of available supporting programmes/schemes. The European Commission states that supporting services for migrants’ entrepreneurs are relatively few at present, compared to the growing need. Current initiatives are often at the level of city or locality, or are pilot schemes undertaken by banks, business support services or universities and not public institutions. Second, different realities of migrant entrepreneurs across Europe are not acknowledged and reflected in European policies (in particular those of migrants’ running businesses in under-paid sectors, migrants with an uncertain status and vulnerable groups of migrants). There is a need for true reflection of migrants’ needs, expectations and economic circumstances in which they work and try to grow their businesses.
Finally, there is a small room for innovations of supporting schemes, due to a lack of benchmarking of existing programmes and lack of opportunities for practitioners to network and collaborate. This is why the majority of actors fear to step out into new areas, add elements to their working methodologies or change approaches to migrants. Currently, there is no network specifically working on influencing policy regarding support to migrant entrepreneurship. There are several trans-national networks, but none of them is working solely on advancing migrant entrepreneurship, while the area of scaling-up of existing micro businesses is not covered at all.