Business Refugee entrepreneurs make significant economic contribution

Refugee entrepreneurs make significant economic contribution

A new study of a pilot start-up program shows refugee’s ability to generate jobs, tax revenue and a significant reduction in welfare support.

A study of the Ignite Small Business Start-ups Program by UTS Business School Professor Jock Collins identified savings of $880,000 a year in Centrelink benefits among a group of 35 refugee entrepreneurs who took part in the research.

In addition, the Ignite entrepreneurs had created 20 jobs and those who had achieved profitability were generating tax revenue.

Ignite, an initiative of humanitarian organisation Settlement Services International (SSI), was launched in 2013 to help newly-arrived humanitarian migrants or refugees set up businesses with the guidance of facilitators.

Refugees from 30 countries and 27 different first languages took part in the pilot.

Overall, of the 240 SSI refugee clients accepted into the Ignite program 25 per cent were now running their own enterprise, the study found – an admirable success rate considering the substantial barriers refugees faced, Professor Collins said.

“At first glance refugees are the most unlikely entrepreneurs. They lack capital to start up a business, they have no credit history, no assets or security. In many instances their educational qualifications are not recognised and they have no social networks,” he said.

SSI now plans to expand the model to support entrepreneurs with a disability through a new pilot program, Ignite Ability.

Professor Collins said there was international interest in the Ignite program, given the unprecedented movement of refugees in the past few years.

“New innovative solutions to the challenges of refugee economic engagement and settlement need to be made,” he said.

“The Ignite start-ups initiative is evidence-based policy innovation that can be applied across Australia and refugee resettlement nations across the world.”

Read more about the Ignite program here. Story credit: UTS newsroom.

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