SPRING held first thematic webinar on entrepreneurship support for (female) beneficiaries of Temporary Protection from Ukraine

On 2 June 2022, the SPRING project, with the support of ICMPD, held a webinar on entrepreneurship as a driver of economic inclusion, focussing on good practices, challenges and opportunities for (female) beneficiaries of Temporary Protection from Ukraine. The panel featured a diverse range of experts and practitioners working in the field of the EU and ICMPD Member States.

Almost 7 million people have fled across Ukraine’s borders following Russia’s invasion, with the vast majority heading to neighbouring EU countries. Those arriving in the EU are largely women, children and elderly. According to the Temporary Protection Directive, this group should be able to engage in self-employed activities. However, as sole caregivers, many face specific challenges in labour market participation.

Against this backdrop, the webinar looked into refugee entrepreneurship as a vehicle for integration, contributing to economic growth and social cohesion. Participants discussed innovative tools and approaches, as well as their applicability to arrivals from Ukraine. In their discussions, they put a specific focus on female migrant entrepreneurship and shared their perspectives from Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Austria, and the European Commission.

Speakers agreed that first and foremost, the new arrivals need to be seen as individuals rather than entrepreneurs, with a range of support needs presupposing their ability to engage in entrepreneurial activities, such as access to housing, (mental) health care, and support in integrating children into schools and kindergartens. Beyond these basic needs, (female) refugee entrepreneurs face a range of challenges, including language barriers, a lack of networks and difficulties in access to finance, and unfavourable legal and regulatory frameworks. For example, social benefits provided by the host country for beneficiaries of Temporary Protection from Ukraine often stop once a person registers a business, making it difficult to secure an income in the first months of business activities. At the same time, they are more prone to crises, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

To overcome these challenges, the speakers agreed on the importance of creating more coherent and comprehensive support eco-systems for migrant and refugee businesses, including legal and regulatory advice on setting up and running a business and targeted business training, taking into account the specific needs of (potential) entrepreneurs arriving from other regulatory, educational and linguistic contexts. Involving the target group as well as diaspora communities in the host countries in the development of support programmes was highlighted as a good practice, as well as mentoring, with a focus on matching between mentor and mentee. While speakers agreed that digitalization plays a significant role in business building and helps the entrepreneurs stay competitive in the market, they also mentioned that this aspect is most relevant after foundation of a business.

The webinar constituted the first of four thematic webinars, which will be organised in the next months to engage more broadly with stakeholders and CoPs working in the field of integration.

The webinar recording is available here.