Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Are There Migrant Enclaves in Australia? -- a Search for the Evidence

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Social Issues

Are There Migrant Enclaves in Australia? -- a Search for the Evidence

Article excerpt

Studies have shown that although migrants in genera/fare worse in the labour market, some migrant groups perform better than others (McAllister 1986; Evans and Kelley 1986; Kelly and McAllister 1984). Studies from the US have also shown that migrant workers working in the ethnic enclaves attain higher socioeconomic rewards compared to the immigrants employed in the secondary sector (Wilson and Portes 1980; Portes and Jensen 1989). Using data collected from the Survey of Issues in Multicultural Australia (1988), this paper reports that ethnic enclaves as a separate economy do not exist in the Australian labour market where migrants can obtain higher status or higher earnings. The paper concludes that the formation of ethnic enclaves as a separate economy needs much more than the establishment of ethnic owned enterprises.


The labour market performance of immigrant workers has been found to be worse compared to that of native-born workers (Beggs and Chapman 1988; Evans and Kelley 1986; Kelley and McAllister 1984). However, evidence from overseas studies has shown that immigrant workers who were employed in migrant enclaves attained similar socioeconomic rewards to those employed in the primary sector (Wilson and Portes 1980). Migrant enclaves are the concentration of ethnic owned enterprises in a geographical space. Portes and Jensen (1989) have defined an ethnic enterprise as a firm of any size owned and operated by a member of a minority group. Wilson and Portes (1980) suggest that a majority of the employees in these enclaves come from the same minority group as that of the owners.

Ethnic enclaves are often confused with the residential concentration of immigrant groups but these are two distinct phenomena. Many ethnic groups tend to live together in a geographical area. However, simple residential concentration is not related to enclave economies. Portes and Jensen (1987, p. 770) argue that enclaves arise due to `the exceptional rise of a number of integrated ethnic firms within a metropolitan area that provide employment for a sizeable proportion of workers from the same minority'.

This means that there are at least two conditions that should be fulfilled before any ethnic enclave can be formed. First, there must be a number of ethnic run enterprises in a geographical area. Second, and very important, these ethnic run enterprises must be integrated so that these enclaves can exist as a separate economy. The economic success of these enclaves, according to Wilson and Martin (1982), is due to vertical and horizontal integration of the enclave firms. Wilson and Martin (1982, p. 137) describe vertical integration of industries as `gaining control of sources of supply and sales outlets', which `occurs among categories of industries', whereas, horizontal integration is `the achievement of cooperative levels of production and pricing strategies', which `occurs within an industry'. The purpose of this paper is to find whether or not there are migrant enclaves in Australian labour market.


The presence of migrant enclaves where immigrants could obtain higher socioeconomic status in a competitive labour market certainly raises several questions. Many theories have been put forward to explain the continued existence of ethnic enclaves, but they can be grouped into two approaches - cultural theory and disadvantage theory. The cultural approach argues that entrepreneurial success is culture-bound, and that immigrant groups import behaviour and traits which are required for small business success (Waldinger et al 1985). For example, in many immigrant communities, rotating credit associations supply capital to ethnic businesses (Bonnett 1981; Laguerre 1984). Light (1972) argues that the role of kinship and place-of-origin of immigrants has played an important role in the establishment of ethnic businesses among Chinese, Japanese and West Indian immigrants. …

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