Humanitarian migrants have the highest rate of business ownership among recent migrants to Australia, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While the entrepreneurial spirit among refugees has long been identified and the Australian business community has no shortage of successful refugee entrepreneurs, this is the first time the ABS has released data about the sources of income for all migrant groups in Australia.
The data is taken from the 2009-10 financial year and also includes the sources of income for skilled and family migrants.
As a group, migrants to Australia earned $38 billion in total income in 2009-10, with the largest segment of those taxpayers, skilled migrants making up 63% of the migrant population and earning $26 billion in income from paid employment.
However, the ABS data shows humanitarian migrants or refugees, while only making up 4% of the migrant population at 31,728 people, reported a higher proportion of income from their own unincorporated businesses compared to skilled and family migrants.
Overall, humanitarian migrants earned a total of $888.8 million in income during 2009-10.
Of this amount, almost 5000 humanitarian migrants reported $83 million from their own unincorporated businesses, which equates to 9.3% of income earned by humanitarian migrants that year and almost double the average contribution of business owners among skilled and family migrants.
Male humanitarian migrants reported 90% of $74.6 million of all unincorporated business income earned by humanitarian migrants and most were aged between 25-44 years old.
The data also shows a higher than average proportion of humanitarian migrants open small or medium size businesses, compared to other migrant groups, and the amount of income earned by humanitarian migrants through their own unincorporated businesses also increases at a faster rate compared to skilled and family migrants who earn money through their own businesses.
In particular, the ABS found a sharp increase the proportion of humanitarian migrants reporting income from their own businesses after five years of residence in Australia, with the percentage of this group reporting own business income jumping from just under 10% after five years in Australia to around 27% after eight years in the country.
Conversely, more skilled and family migrants report earning some income from own unincorporated businesses between one and six years of being in Australia but this percentage increases at a much slower rate than humanitarian migrants.
Nicolette Ranieri is the coordinator of an entrepreneurs program at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) and a co-founder of Thankyou Group. She told SmartCompany today the ABS data backs up what she and her colleagues at the ASRC have been seeing at an anecdotal level.
“These stats are really beneficial,” Ranieri says.
“Anecdotally we know refugees and asylum seekers bring value to the community through their own businesses and it’s fantastic to see this in the ABS stats.”
Ranieri says the refugees and asylum seekers she works with are often risk-takers by nature and are bringing “really strong business acumen” that they developed in their home countries to their ventures in Australia.
“They have that love of business and a determination to earn their own way and be their own boss,” she says.
“A lot of people say the next disruption that will happen here will be from people from refugee background.”
But Ranieri says there are both “push and pull” factors that come into play, saying many refugees and asylum seekers find themselves starting their own businesses because they are unable to find employment in the profession they were trained in in their home country.
“Either way they are determined enough to start a life here,” she says.
“They are very passionate about showing they can bring value to the community because there is so much stigma around and it is such a political issue. They want to show they are not here to take money.”