Migrants are behind 1 in 7 UK companies

More proof the government's rally against immigrants is ill-advised: foreign-born entrepreneurs are driving job creation in Britain, a study has found.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 25 Jan 2016

Some 500,000 people from 155 countries have launched businesses in the UK and are responsible for creating 14% of total jobs, a study by the Centre for Entrepreneurs and DueDil has found.

There are currently 456,073 migrant entrepreneurs running active businesses in the UK, and some own more than one. With a total of 3,194,981 firms in the UK, migrant entrepreneurs are behind 14.5% or 1 in 7 of companies with turnover between £1m and £200m.

The majority of those come from Ireland, as there are 48,854 Irish founders behind businesses in the UK. In second place is India, with 32,593, followed by Germany with 30,755 and America with 29,933. London benefits disproportionately, with 188,000 migrant-led businesses - 20 times more than Birmingham, the second most popular destination with 19,285.

'Migrant Entrepreneurs: Building our businesses, creating our jobs' shows that 17.2% of migrants have started a business, compared to 10.4% of people in the UK. This is despite challenges they face including access to finance and cultural and language barriers. They are also, on average, eight years younger than UK-born entrepreneurs at 44.3 years-old compared to 52.1.

Dr Gerry Ford, Chairman and Group Chief Executive of the Caffé Nero coffee chain, came to the UK from California three decades ago. In 1991 he founded Paladin Associates to invest in a range of food businesses, including Caffé Nero, which at the time was operating from five locations. It now employs more than 4,000 people and operates 600 stores globally, opening one new store a week.

He says the UK is one of the easiest places in Europe to run a business because there is 'not an excessive amount of red tape.' He has spread ownership among employees, who own 10% of Caffé Nero, an approach he picked up from Silicon Valley.

US-born Damian Kimmelman, DueDil founder and CEO, said: 'Immigration is one of Britain’s most emotive topics for debate. Sadly, opinions are rarely informed by evidence. This research proves that migrant entrepreneurs are hyper-productive, net contributors to the UK economy.'

A recent poll by YouGov found that 44% of the general public believe migrant entrepreneurs make a positive contribution to the UK and 50% support the government’s efforts to attract new migrant entrepreneurs. But on the whole, the public view immigration in a generally negative light and 68% support a reduction in net immigration.

'The majority of the public appreciate the value of migrant entrepreneurs, yet our politicians and media send out negative signals that risk alienating this vital group of job creators. Given the huge contribution of migrant entrepreneurs, we are calling upon the media and politicians to join us in celebrating those who come to our country and launch businesses,' Centre for Entrepreneurs chairman and MT columnist Luke Johnson said.

This on a day the government has been accused of hiding figures showing immigration isn't as bad for jobs as it has always claimed. David Cameron's argument for greater controls over immigration is beginning to ring decidedly hollow...

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