Politicians must celebrate the contribution of immigrant entrepreneurs

A plurality of the general public believe immigrant entrepreneurs make a positive contribution to the UK and a majority think the Government is doing the right amount or should do more to attract them to the country. These are the findings of a YouGov survey for the Centre for Entrepreneurs, which has called on the media and politicians to celebrate the job-creation and wealth-creation of immigrant entrepreneurs.

The Centre – a joint initiative between serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson and the Legatum Institute – commissioned the survey to understand the differences in public opinion towards immigrants at large, and those who come to launch businesses and create jobs.

While only 26% of those surveyed believed immigrants as a whole make a positive contribution to the country, 44% believed immigrant entrepreneurs – those who move to the UK and launch a business – make a positive contribution to the UK.

Luke Johnson, Chairman of the Centre comments: “the public’s positive perception of immigrant entrepreneurs isn’t just an acknowledgement of their economic value, it is in recognition that immigrants are behind some of our best-loved brands – from Caffè Nero and Patak’s to lastminute.com and easyJet. In launching companies they also create jobs, generate significant tax revenue and boost Britain’s prosperity”.

Support for the Government’s efforts to attract new immigrant entrepreneurs is widespread, with 50% of those surveyed believing the Government is doing the right amount or should do more to attract immigrant entrepreneurs to the UK, versus only 28% believing that the Government should do less.

However, despite public support for immigrant entrepreneurs, 56% of those surveyed believed there should be a cap on the number of immigrant entrepreneurs allowed in to the UK. Under current immigration policies, entrepreneur visas and investor visas are uncapped, with only the graduate entrepreneur visa capped at 2,000 per year.

Matt Smith, director of the Centre comments: “this is an anomaly – the public recognise the positive contribution that immigrant entrepreneurs bring to the UK – namely job creation, boosting tax revenues and economic growth – yet they still wish to limit their numbers. Politicians must make the intellectual case to the public on why immigrant entrepreneurs are of value and why – quite rightly – there are no caps on their numbers”.

Efforts to encourage international students to launch a business in the UK after graduation also receive broad support from the public, with 47% of those surveyed believing the Government is doing the right amount or should do more to encourage international students to stay and start, versus only 27% believing the Government should do less.

Matt Smith comments: “with the world’s first graduate entrepreneur visa scheme, it is essential that the Government and universities take note of this public vote of confidence in their efforts and spread the message to all international students – we want you to stay and start”.

Next month the Centre will be releasing a full report on the impact of immigration on UK entrepreneurship, including further evidence on the contribution immigrant entrepreneurs make to the British economy. ENDS

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,280 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 9th December 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).