It was as a participant of Model Asia-Europe Meeting Le Havre 2016 representing my home country, Republic of Korea, when I first encountered the concept of 'migrant/foreign entrepreneurship.' One of the important topics of the conference was employment, and migrant entrepreneurship was mentioned as the solution to tackle the issue of high unemployment rate that is rampant in many countries. To my surprise, it was a concept that had already garnered worldwide attention. Therefore, throughout the conference, I couldn't help asking myself: how can migrant entrepreneurship help to improve societal challenges that we face today, in South Korea and other parts of the world?
Migrant or foreign entrepreneurs refer to those who start businesses in a place other than their home country so that they could find better conditions or new opportunities. Already quite a number of people have gone abroad to achieve their dreams as an entrepreneur, and the number continues to grow.
However, in South Korea, there are still many who are not familiar with the concept of migrant entrepreneurship and thus not aware of the benefits and contributions it can have on our society as well as the problems women of today face. More support is needed to empower migrant/foreign entrepreneurship, and here are two reasons:
First and foremost, migrant/foreign entrepreneurship can create more opportunities for women. Many women face challenges in conventional workplaces, such as sexism, the glass ceiling, and inadequate support or policies for working moms. Encouraging entrepreneurship can be a breakthrough for women to escape these conditions and win economic independence.
South Korea is especially ripe to support foreign entrepreneurship, as our previously homogenous society is on its way to transforming itself into a multicultural society with a high number of women immigrants coming in for job search and through international marriage. Many women who enter Korea with hopes for better quality life often suffer due to poverty and unemployment.
Support for migrant or foreign entrepreneurship could make them take full advantage of their cultural and language potentials by creating their own businesses in South Korea. This will help them grow financial and social independence, reducing the danger of domestic violence and isolation. It could also help break down the stereotype that entrepreneurs are always men, which hinders further development of women's career as an entrepreneur. There already exist some eye-catching campaigns, for example, in Florence, Italy, 'InformaDonna' has been launched to give vital tools for women entrepreneurs from all nationalities. Second, migrant/foreign entrepreneurship can boost the host countries' economy by creating value and increasing the employment rate. More than 40 percent of businesses on the U.S. Fortune 500 List are launched by migrants and their children. This means that the majority of U.S. start-ups with high value are owned by migrant/foreign entrepreneurs. Moreover, these start-ups are hiring people in the host country making the employment rate go up. In South Korea, a competition named 'K-Startup Grand Challenge' is held every year to encourage young foreign entrepreneurs to come to Korea. Last year, 70 percent of the participating companies established an entity in Korea and almost 80 percent of them employed Korean staffs.
These two reasons, among others, demonstrate why more active support is needed. With high accessibility to credit lines, simplified visa process, and language programs supported by government and civil society, it would be more favorable for them to start businesses abroad. This will lead to benefits for all the migrant or foreign entrepreneurs and host countries as well as impacting female entrepreneurship with broadened opportunities.
By Eunkyung Son, G(irls)20 Delegate, South Korea