From Consortium Partner The William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan
There are currently 25.9 million refugees worldwide, as the world experiences the highest levels of displacement on record. These refugees fled their countries due to war, natural disaster or persecution, and were often forced to leave behind their possessions, as well as their livelihoods. So they are, in many ways, forced to start over upon arrival in their new country.
This process begins with finding a new livelihood. However, refugees may have trouble landing a job due to discrimination, legal barriers, language limitations and lack of social networks. Given these hurdles, it is not surprising that some refugees turn to entrepreneurship out of necessity. Starting a business – especially if their customers are primarily fellow refugees – can allow them to sidestep the obstacles of discrimination and language. It is also attractive in that it enables independence, allowing the entrepreneur to “be their own boss.”
But starting a business is a challenge for anybody, and business failure rates are high. How do refugees — faced with the additional challenges of being new to a country and often not speaking the language — manage to establish successful enterprises? It turns out that along with their unique challenges, they also bring some unique assets to the table. These attributes can both position them for success and enable them to enrich their host nation.