Migration spurs debate on all sides. Supporters believe a high migration rate boosts Australia’s skill pool, enhances our economy and helps to counteract the effects of an ageing population.
Critics say high migration puts pressure on the infrastructure of our larger cities, reduces our quality of life and takes work opportunities away from locals.
Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year, Tony Featherstone, a former editor of the Business Review Weekly, argued the case for including entrepreneurship in the migration debate. He said, “we don’t do nearly enough to raise awareness of migrant and refugee entrepreneurship in Australia.”
Mr Featherstone also believes Australia’s multiculturalism should be celebrated and promoted as one of our startup community’s greatest strengths. Our uniquely multicultural society should be used to attract migrant entrepreneurs, whether established or just starting out, and we also need to work out how to best support them. Let’s examine the issue more closely...
The global perspective
Australia is keen to move onto the top-tier of innovation nations and, in order to do this, we need to attract overseas entrepreneurs and foreign capital.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Tony Featherstone said: “Our success with multiculturalism, potentially a selling point, seems to be downplayed or neglected in entrepreneurship discussions and the need to target global markets.”
He continued: “Australia should be viewed offshore as the place for migrant entrepreneurs. A country that welcomes people who want to build a venture, work hard, take risks and create jobs for others. A country that embraces different cultures and has a proud history of multiculturalism.”
Mr Featherstone believes multiculturalism and innovation are inextricably linked. If we want to take part in global markets, we need people with experience in offshore markets and a solid understanding of consumer desires in developing countries.
He added, “We’ll never crack giant Asian markets if our ventures are mostly run only by locals and our boards are stacked with older Australian men. Multiculturalism is about diversity, which in turn is about better creativity and decision-making. That sounds like entrepreneurship to me.”
Australia’s multiculturalism should be an ‘entrepreneurship magnet’
Australia has an unparalleled immigrant culture. The proportion of our current population who were born overseas (28%) recently hit its highest point in 120 years.
Our multiculturalism should be a powerful incentive for entrepreneurs. Those looking for business opportunities are drawn to vibrant, inclusive cities with diverse cultures and global awareness.
Australia’s migrant stories are also richly varied and fascinating and we need to make sure we tell them.
The Sydney Morning Herald featured an article about Karla Spetic who arrived in Australia as a refugee and now runs her own fashion label. Karla is just one of many, many migrant success stories.
Tony Featherstone also refers to ‘necessity entrepreneurship’:
“We should never discount the power of necessity entrepreneurship to build ventures or its link with migration,” he said. “Or the fact that many entrepreneurs come from difficult backgrounds, build a business through sheer will and get to entrepreneurship via small business. Not every entrepreneur is a hipster who is developing an App in an inner-city warehouse...”
As the saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention". Entrepreneurship can be unglamorous and borne from necessity, but it still counts just as much.
How can we support migrant entrepreneurs?
Australia's migrant entrepreneurs are in many respects already thriving in and various initiatives are in place to develop and support this.
The CGU Migrant Small Business Report, published in January 2018, showed soaring levels of innovation and ambition among migrants in Australia.
The report interviewed more than 900 business owners and found that 83% of migrant business owners started their first business venture after moving to this country.
It also demonstrated high levels of ambition and growth, with 47% of migrant business owners planning to generate higher revenue in the next five years, compared to 38% of non-migrants.
Migrant and refugee entrepreneurship are supported by funding initiatives, such as LaunchVic’s $1.4m funding grant to support organisations that encourage migrants and refugees in Victoria to develop their ideas and embed their startup skills.
Incubators like Startup Catalyst have been formed to help Australia’s entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders build networks and connections in international startup hotspots and broaden cultural understanding.
We’re also taking tentative steps in the right direction when it comes to entrepreneur visa options. South Australia will pilot a new Entrepreneur Visa aimed at increasing business growth and investment. Under this new visa scheme applicants won’t need to secure capital backing, unlike Australia’s current Entrepreneur Visa which requires funding of at least $200,000.
For a bright future – choose Australia
Please get in touch with FastVisa if you’re thinking about migrating to Australia or would like to sponsor an overseas employee. We can advise you on your visa options and guide you through the application process: