Migrants own almost a third of small businesses in Australia, survey shows

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Melbourne Office Workers
Office workers walk along an overpass in Central Melbourne May 12, 2011. Reuters/Mike Tsikas

A third of small businesses in Australia are being run by migrants, with many having no entrepreneurial experience prior to setting up thriving enterprises, a new survey suggests. Greater independence was said to be the primary motivator for migrants to start their own businesses.

The CGU Migrant Small Business Report was based on EY Sweeney research of over 900 business owners. It was released on Monday.

The report shows that migrant owners are determined to create jobs for themselves. It also suggests that they are more highly educated compared to non-migrant counterparts, with 51 percent having a bachelor degree or higher.

Among the key findings of the report was that 83 percent of migrant small business owners did not own a business before coming to Australia. While the key motivator for those setting up their own businesses was greater independence, they were also more likely to take the plunge when they couldn't find other work.

Some Australians are currently working for migrant bosses. Over 1.4 million Australians are reportedly working for migrant employers at this time. The number is expected to climb by a further 200,000 over the next five to 10 years. A third of businesses in Australia owned by migrants can possibly hire more people due to increasing demand.

CGU Insurances's small business spokeswoman Kate Wellard said the “significant contribution” migrant small business owners make to Australia is largely an “untold story.”

"Our research helps challenge perceptions that our migrants are taking more than they're giving and the positive impact they have on our business community,” News.com.au quotes Wellard as saying.

Wage growth

The nation has low unemployment of around 5.4 percent. Wages, however, have been rising at a low rate.

Labor has said that wages growth is still historically low. There were suggestions that some businesses are increasingly using labour hire to drive conditions and wages down further.

Shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers said that the government must stop fixating on tax cuts for big business. Instead, it must start focusing on wages as well as working conditions. “There’s no question that there are some practices that are emerging that are undercutting people’s wages and conditions,” Chalmers said on Sunday, according to The Guardian.

The past year has ended on an upbeat note as the economy showed signs of life. Australia was credited with setting a world record as the country with the longest period of uninterrupted modern growth.