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The Unique Experience of Immigrant Family Business Owners


In Canada, first-generation immigrants are generally more likely to own businesses than native Canadians. Statistics Canada reports that “about 17% of immigrant working men age 20 to 64 were self-employed, compared with 12% of Canadian-born”. This self-employment includes business ownership. However, there are lower rates of business ownership for second, third, and further generations of immigrants compared to first-generation immigrants (Statistics Canada). In any family business, owners often find it difficult to step down to allow other family members to manage the business. However, the experiences of immigrant business owners are unique compared to those of Canadian-born family business owners: immigrant families have the collective experience of immigration and struggle, which may alter the family dynamics and their expectations with regards to the family business. There is very little information available on how immigrant-owned businesses move from one generation to the next, and how this transition is different from that of other family businesses.

Professor Ramzi Fathallah has received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study how and why next-generation members of immigrant families take over, or not, the family business. His research will help shed light on the unique experiences of immigrant-owned family businesses in Canada.

Project title: Built to last? Immigrant family businesses and next generation commitment

Professor Fathallah commented that “Immigrant-owned family businesses have a great potential to contribute to the Canadian economy. However, they face unique challenges.”

From one generation to the next

Family businesses can use the resources the business generates to support the next generation in pursuing more secure opportunities outside of the family business, such as attending university. However, despite the opportunities provided by the family business, the shared experiences of immigrant families may pressure members of the younger generation to stay and commit to the family business. This can lead members of the younger generation to feel trapped and unable to pursue job opportunities other than the family business.

Impact of the research

This research will increase understanding and provide valuable insight on how next-generation members of immigrant families can support their family business. This research is also valuable for immigrant business owners, as it can help them organize more effectively for the future of their business. Moreover, this research can help organizations that support immigrant-owned family businesses to offer services that align more closely with the actual needs of their stakeholders.

About the Author

Phoenix a rejoint l'équipe de Direction de la recherche de Telfer en 2021 grâce au régime travail-études. Elle est diplômée du baccalauréat spécialisé en enseignement des langues secondes et est présentement inscrite au programme de formation à l’enseignement (B.Éd.). Ses responsabilités comprennent la gestion et l'analyse de données, la rédaction d'articles, en plus d'autres tâches administratives.<br/><br/>Phoenix joined the Telfer Research Office in 2021 through the work-study program. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Second Language Teaching and is working toward a Bachelor of Education. Her responsibilities include data management and analytics, story writing, and other administrative tasks.

Profile Photo of Phoenix Hudson