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Migrant SME owners outperform locals

Map, global growth

Migrants who start a business after moving to Australia are outperforming their local counterparts when it comes to innovation, education and job creation, new research suggests.

The Migrant Small Business Report, compiled by CGU Insurance, found that for the vast majority (83 per cent) of migrant business operators in Australia, this is their first time starting a business.

Close to a quarter (23 per cent) did so because they wanted to take a new idea or innovation to market. This compares with just 16 per cent of non-migrants who started their business for the same reason.


And, according to the study, their efforts are paying off. Migrant-owned businesses are more likely to be adding new jobs (33 per cent compared with 25 per cent of non-migrant owned businesses) and have expectations for revenue growth over the next five years (47 per cent to 38 per cent).

Additionally, migrant-owned companies are also more likely to actively train up young people (25 per cent versus 19 per cent).

Somewhat surprisingly, migrants who go into business for themselves are also more likely to have a tertiary education: 51 per cent of migrant business owners had a degree or higher, compared with 35 per cent of non-migrants.

“There are more than 620,000 migrant-owned businesses in Australia employing over 1.41 million Australians,” said Kate Wellard, small business spokesperson for CGU Insurance, adding that this figure accounts for around one-third of all small businesses nationally.

“Our research helps challenge perceptions that our migrants are taking more than they’re giving, and we’re keen to share this story – one of successful, hardworking and innovative migrants and the positive impact they have on our business community.”

CGU highlighted examples such as David Peng, who came to Australia under the Cambodian Refugee Program in the 1980s to escape the Khmer Rouge and went on to establish Muay Thai Bodyfit in Melbourne, and Niklas Olsson who came from a small town in Sweden and founded refrigeration business Balto that now has revenue of around $5 million.



“This research shows migrant business owners are creating jobs, contributing to our economy, giving back to our communities and making our culture richer, despite the cultural barriers. This contribution deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated,” said Ms Wellard.

It’s not all smooth sailing for migrants in business though. The research found that migrants find attracting people is more difficult, both in terms of finding new customers (46 per cent compared to 41 per cent for non-migrant owned businesses) and skilled workers (20 per cent versus 16 per cent).

Around 900 business owners were surveyed as part of the report.

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Migrant SME owners outperform locals
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