Labor Migration from and to Europe: Migrants as Job Seekers and Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs
Business History Conference 2
Labor and Working Class History Association 3
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.