Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Mixed Embeddedness and the Dynamics of Self-Employment among Turkish Immigrants in Finland

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Mixed Embeddedness and the Dynamics of Self-Employment among Turkish Immigrants in Finland

Article excerpt

Abstract: The article analyses dynamics of social capital that can explain how Turkish immigrants in Finland become self-employed and why they have established themselves within a particular economic sector. The mixed embeddedness perspective on ethnic and immigrant entrepreneurship is utilised to achieve a better understanding of these processes. The interview study indicates that immigrants are able to establish ethnic economies also in countries with relatively small and geographically dispersed immigrant populations. Immigrant entrepreneurs can mobilise transnational social capital for the establishment of businesses, but only under circumstances where transnational resources can be utilised as a local resource. To understand the dynamics of immigrants businesses requires an analysis of the embeddedness of immigrants in a simultaneously transnational and local social context.

Keywords: mixed embeddedness, ethnic ties, social capital, Turkish immigrants, self-employment.

Introduction1

The mixed embeddedness theory of ethnic and immigrant businesses provides an attempt to explain the dynamics of immigrant entrepreneurship in highly developed countries (Kloosterman and Rath 2001; Kloosterman 2010). The theory points out the interdependence of resources and opportunity structures in the start-up and operation of small businesses. This provides an explanation of why it is possible to find a concentration of some ethnic and immigrant groups in particular economic sectors and occupations. Most studies of immigrant and ethnic minority entrepreneurs are made in countries where we find relatively sizeable tight-knit minority communities and a concentration of immigrants in specific urban locations. Yet, migration is becoming increasingly diverse and in the 2000s most immigrants in Europe do not live in close communities together with compatriots. In fact, the geographical dispersal of immigrants has increased both within and among countries, the ethnic background of immigrants is manifold, and mixed families involving both ethnic minority and majority members are common (Castles and Miller 2009). This study of Turkish immigrants in Finland provides an example of the dynamics involved in the embeddedness of immigrant business in increasingly complex social contexts.

Among Turkish immigrants in Finland, a large share of the economically active population is self-employed in the fast food and restaurant sector. The immigrants are especially active in so-called kebab businesses. This article outlines the dynamics that explain how Turkish immigrants become self-employed and why they have established themselves within this particular economic sector. The article describes how some entrepreneurs have succeeded and others have failed in their attempts to start a business. The entrepreneurs operate in both local and transnational social contexts. The article argues that immigrant entrepreneurs can utilise transnational social capital for the establishment of businesses, but only under circumstances where transnational resources can be utilised as a local resource.

Previous studies about ethnic businesses have demonstrated the importance of resources and social ties within ethnic groups for the establishment of businesses. The economic action of immigrants is embedded in a social context, which influences the establishment of businesses. The concept of "social capital" is useful to describe the access to various types of collective resources that are available to members of a specific social group in a given social context (Bourdieu 1986). This article focuses on trust and reciprocity as significant forms of social capital needed in the establishment of businesses. Furthermore, research on transnationalism, especially the work by Thomas Faist (2000a, 2000b), has pointed out that the social capital available to immigrants is not necessarily locally situated. Immigrant businesses can utilise resources in both the country of origin and in the country of settlement. …

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