The hidden champions

To remain wealthy in the future Europe and its citizens will experience a good deal of change. To help migrants succeed in Europe is a good place to start.

“Migration is the mother of all problems”, stated Horst Seehofer the German interior minister in September 2018.  Days before, the Eastern German city of Chemnitz had just seen violent riots against migration with people throughout the streets yelling: “Merkel must go”.

It is not hard to find facts that back up Mr. Seehofer. In Norway inequality and child poverty is rising as larger portions of migrants are unemployed, and many women with a migrant background do not participate in the labor force. In Sweden overcrowding is riddling major cities. In the Netherlands more second generation migrants are unemployed than first generation migrants. There are no easy solutions to these systematic problems.

For the past 20 years, migration has risen to the top of the global political agenda. The UK vote for Brexit stemmed mostly out of fear of the “migration threat”, rampant disagreement about the UN Global Compact for Migration which blew up the Belgian government,  the Norwegian prime minister was called a traitor by a far right newspaper after coming out in favor of the deal, and all over Europe radical right wing parties are having a hay day in the chaos. The far right however is driven both by legitimate concerns about integration, but also by a hatred towards migrants and the establishment.

As a result, many governments are experimenting with new migration policies, spend millions of euros on building fences, adding more bureaucracy for non-EU migrants who want to start business’ and aim to take in as few refugees as possible. It often seem that the main aim of migration policies is to make Europe less appealing for people on the move. Seen from this point of view, migration is indeed a mother to all problems.

But it is possible to challenge Mr. Seehofer by asking one question: Must migration be the mother of all problems?

The German economic miracle after the second world war was also powered by guest worker (gästarbeiters) from Italy, Yugoslavia and Turkey. In Israel a wave of migration from the former USSR also spurred strong economic growth. Adding to it, most European countries have a low fertility rate and without migration the population will eventually start to decline. Where in the world, does a country have increased growth while at the same time experiencing a declining population?

It is clear that an influx of low-skilled migration will not solve Europe’s problems, but not all migrants are low-skilled. In most Northern European countries people with a migrant background are more entrepreneurial than non-migrants. In the UK the global entrepreneurship monitor finds that 12.9 percent of migrants were early-stage entrepreneurs, compared to 8.2 percent among the UK-born population as a whole . In Sweden young people with migrant backgrounds are twice as entrepreneurial as Swedes. In Germany migrants with a university degree are the most entrepreneurial people in the country.  This is translated into jobs. In Germany more than 1.3 million jobs are created by entrepreneurs with a migrant background, in Sweden the number is 300.000. In contrast to Seehofter’s commentary, thus far, migration is not the “mother of all problems.”

Northern European countries need all the innovation and entrepreneurial gist they can get. By creating policies that make countries unattractive to migrants there is a risk that not only the low skilled workers stay away, but also the highly skilled. Can it be that policies making countries unattractive to migrants are as high risk as the alternative?

There is a Latin saying, often ascribed to Ovid: ‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.’ It means ‘Times are changed; we, too, are changed within them.’

In this book we tell a story of how nations, institutions and people change. It is a cautionary tale of these changes – not to deter but to encourage a Europe that should be learning from best practice, in several sectors, different cultures and countries. This book tells the story of migrant entrepreneurs and the people, organisations and companies who support them in developing their talent. It’s a book about their experiences, struggles and success formula.

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