The Refugee Entrepreneurship Paradox in Australia: Regional and Rural Experiences

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Jock COLLINS, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney., Australia
Branka KRIVOKAPIC-SKOKO, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Refugees are the most disadvantaged cohort of immigrant arrivals and face the greatest settlement difficulties in Australia. Refugees face severe difficulties in entering the Australian labour market, with unemployment rates exceeded only by Indigenous Australians. Regional and rural labour markets are even more constrained, hence the great difficulties faced by refugees in regional and rural Australia in getting a job.

One strategy adopted by refugees over many decades in Australia and other countries to overcome this blocked labour market mobility (Collins, 2003) and engage with the economy is to create their own jobs through refugee entrepreneurship. This paper presents the data gathered from interviews with more than 100 refugee entrepreneurs in regional and rural Australia as part of a national research project on Refugee Entrepreneurs in Australia funded by the Australian Research Council. It investigates the reasons why refugees started-up their own business in regional and rural Australia, their strategies for overcoming the massive obstacles they faced setting up the business and the extent to which their businesses are embedded in their family and community. The paper also reflects on the experience of formal and informal discrimination, the extent to which the racialization of refugees in Australia has shaped their lives, blocked their access to the labor market, influenced moving into specific ethnic niche industries and the contradictions embedded in the refugee entrepreneurship paradox in Australia.

The paper also examines the ways in which boundaries of exclusion are created and maintained by the institutional frameworks and local communities. More specifically how some institutional barriers create boundaries of exclusion such as the lack of recognition of overseas qualifications, and what are the implications for social and economic mobility of refugee entrepreneurs within a non-metropolitan context.

Finally the paper considers the theoretical relationship between refugee entrepreneurship, immigrant entrepreneurship and diasporic entrepeneurship.