The untapped potential of immigrant self-employment

On the left, Paolo Malfitano, together with other awardees and a few members of the jury
On the left, Paolo Malfitano, together with other awardees and a few members of the jury

Institutional Communication Service

22 July 2019

One of the priorities policymakers in many countries is to support innovation, which is considered essential to remain competitive in the globalised and digitised economy. Innovative ideas are often bottom-up self-entrepreneurship initiatives. In Switzerland, unlike in other countries, the rate of self-employment among the resident foreign population is lower than among the native one, due in particular to the lower propensity of first-generation immigrants to set up their own businesses. This phenomenon is the subject of a study by Paolo Malfitano, a PhD student at the USI Institute for Economic Research, which was recently awarded as the best doctoral research in the context of the Uddevalla Symposium 2019 conference, organized by the Swedish University West. 

The study "Immigrant self-employment and intergenerational links. The Swiss case” reveals a genuine potential “in-house” that is not fully exploited and that could be better developed through targeted investments, like higher education and vocational training. The analysis of Paolo Malfitano also illustrates the main hurdles to self-employment among the population of foreign origin in an inter-generational perspective, i.e. language, weaker socio-economic networks, and difficulties in accessing the entrepreneurial context (for example, in obtaining loans) due, among other things, to the temporary nature of the residence permit. This applies essentially to first generation immigrants: from the second generation, in fact, the mentioned issues are mitigated and the data collected in Switzerland show that foreign citizens are more represented in entrepreneurship than Swiss citizens are.


Further details on the awards conferred during the Uddevalla Symposium 2019 at: