Labor Migration from and to Europe: Migrants as Job Seekers and Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs

AHA Session 119
Business History Conference 2
Labor and Working Class History Association 3
Friday, January 8, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room A602 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh
Chinese Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Italy and England: The Case of Bologna and London
Francesca Fauri, University of Bologna; Patrizia Battilani, University of Bologna
Business Migration: The Case of Selected Immigrant Groups in Italy
Donatella Strangio, Sapienza University of Rome
Job Promotion and Turnover among Spanish Workers in the FRG, 1960–75
Gloria Sanz Lafuente, Universidad Pública de Navarra
Notes on the Economic and Social Impact of Migrants in Belgium during the 20th Century
Paolo Tedeschi, University of Milan Bicocca; Pierre Tilly, Université Catholique de Louvain

Session Abstract

Migration is a multi-faceted phenomenon and not easy to define. Most migrants have traditionally been job seekers attracted by wage differentials, better living standards and job opportunities, but the migration choice also depended on non-economic reasons. The place of destination was sometimes the result of ethnic chains and connections built by pre-existing immigrant communities. Similarly, migration cannot be considered an income-maximizing choice taken by an individual alone; as historians underline, it is often a household strategy, a decision taken within the family context to support and improve life conditions at home. Furthermore, some ethnic groups are more or less likely to engage in the entrepreneurial process: a difference which may be a function of ethnicity per se or the outcome of the complex interplay of social, economic and institutional processes known as “mixed embeddedness”. In this session, the contributors will try to explore the universe of migrants as both job seekers and ethnic minority entrepreneurs in Europe over the last hundred years. In the first case, their motivations, adaptation to the new cultural and working environment and the effects of their presence in the country of destination social and economic structure will be analysed. Other papers, more than engaging in the difficult explanation of why some ethnic groups compete more successfully in business, will present studies on a few ethnic groups with a high level of entrepreneurship and self-employment. Ethnic ventures often rely on social networks to access information and resources as well as to achieve legitimacy to overcome their shortcomings. Ethnic entrepreneurs are risk takers but are also capable of properly dealing with the intricate relationships among organizational learning, social networks and the country of destination’s rules. We hope this session appeals to a broad audience of historians and economic historians interested in the economic and social impact of migration  and in a few case studies concerning ethnic minority entrepreneurs. The ultimate aim of this session is to contribute to a better understanding of the effect different forms of migration have had and will have on economic change in recipient countries.

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