Immigrant Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in the GTA
Dr. Sarah Wayland

Immigrant Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship in the GTA, by Dr. Sarah Wayland, explores whether self-employment and entrepreneurship is a viable option for lifting new Canadians out of poverty in the Greater Toronto Area.

The report describes:

  • Characteristics of self-employment and entrepreneurship amongst immigrants;
  • Challenges faced by immigrants in starting new businesses;
  • Existing services, programs and policies available in the Greater Toronto Area for immigrant entrepreneurs;
  • Lessons learned from other jurisdictions and;
  • Preliminary observations about the efficacy of existing supports for self-employed immigrants, and gaps in services.

The research finds that there are a suite of services for entrepreneurs in the GTA, but that there is a paucity of supports targeted towards the unique barriers immigrants face when starting a business. It identifies the need for future research and suggests possible policy and program ideas for various stakeholders.

Metcalf and Maytree Letter on Immigrant Self-employment

To deepen our understanding of the issues and opportunities surfaced in Dr. Wayland’s research, we reached out to over 30 individuals with knowledge on this topic, through interviews and small roundtables. We met with officials from all three levels of government, immigrant-serving agencies, foundations, financial institutions, business networking organizations, and an ethnic business association. All gave generously of their time and wisdom to our effort.

Our conversations confirmed the findings of our report that self-employment can indeed be one dimension of a broad set of strategies that advances poverty reduction, and increases economic well-being for immigrants. At the same time, they brought into focus important nuances that need to be integrated into any serious conversation about supporting low-income immigrant entrepreneurs. These included notions about how we define success, and what are considered effective, high-impact interventions.

Here are the key take-aways from these discussions (PDF). We hope you may find them useful in your own efforts to build an inclusive and economically just city-region.

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