Ethnic Enclaves, Networks and Self-Employment among Middle Eastern Immigrants in Sweden



The proportion of immigrants from countries in the Middle East living in Sweden has increased since the 1970s, and it is a well-known fact that immigrants from the Middle East suffer from low earnings and high rates of unemployment on the Swedish labour market. There are often great hopes that self-employment will enable immigrants to improve their labour market situation. Further, in Sweden as in many other countries, the question of whether the existence of ethnic enclaves are good or bad for immigrants’ earnings and employment opportunities has also been widely debated. This paper presents a study of the extent to which Middle Eastern ethnic enclaves and networks in Sweden enhance or hinder immigrants’ self-employment. The results show that the presence of ethnic enclaves increases the propensity for self-employment. Thus, immigrants in ethnic enclaves provide their co-ethnics with goods and services that Swedish natives are not able to provide. The results also show that ethnic networks seem to be an obstacle to immigrant self-employment. One explanation is that an increase in network size implies increased competition for customers among self-employed immigrants. The question of whether ethnic enclaves are good or bad for the integration of immigrants into the labour market has been widely debated. The results of this paper provide us with information about the integration puzzle. Ethnic enclaves seem to enhance self-employment propensities among Middle Eastern immigrants in Sweden.