Foreign-born entrepreneurs hit particularly hard by the global pandemic


In the Entrefox –project, we organise workshops for entrepreneurs with a foreign background to support their business. The COVID- 19 pandemic, which began in the spring, set the content of the workshops quite new, as many entrepreneurs with suddenly lost their earnings or experienced significant changes in their business. As project organisers, we have learned that the pandemic has hit entrepreneurs with a foreign background particularly hard. In this post, we look at the reasons why entrepreneurs with a foreign background are, in many ways, in an especially vulnerable position in the current crisis.

In the spring, the government decided to close down restaurants, bars and nightclubs to prevent the spread of infection. Only takeaway sales were permitted. A significant proportion of foreign-born entrepreneurs work in the service sector, particularly in the restaurant business. Thus, the pandemic had a particularly strong impact on foreign-born entrepreneurs’ business operations and wellbeing.

Another aspect complicating the situation for foreign-born entrepreneurs is the complexity and ambiguity of the Finnish welfare service system. In April-May, many entrepreneurs had to apply for unemployment benefit to make up for the loss of earnings caused by the corona situation. The Finnish service system and applying for unemployment benefit as a process is not simple, even for people with a Finnish background, and it is doubly challenging for people with limited Finnish language skills or to whom the service system itself is unfamiliar. The application process for unemployment benefit for entrepreneurs with a foreign background requires a great deal of mental effort and dedication to the investigation. There are also entrepreneurs who have not received unemployment benefits they would have been entitled to precisely because of their lack of language skills.

There are additional factors that may cause extra stress for entrepreneurs, like growing concern for friends and relatives in their home country and their difficult life situations due to the effects of Covid-19. This is not surprising at all, as who would not want to be surrounded by loved ones in these challenging times? However, many entrepreneurs have managed to stay positive and see the bright side of the situation: relatively speaking, Finland has been coping quite well with the global crisis, and its welfare system works fairly effectively in safeguarding tolerable living conditions for all. Thus, some of the participants in EntreFox’s workshops have even expressed relief to be in Finland during the global crisis, as the situation elsewhere could be even more difficult.

It is particularly important that entrepreneurs with a foreign background are not left isolated in the crisis. They are victims of the current pandemic many times over – they face an economic and social crisis in a foreign culture, often far away from their loved ones. In this situation, it is particularly important for entrepreneurial services to ensure the availability of psychosocial support and services in English, and improve communication so that no one is left without important information. As consumers, we can also make choices to help entrepreneurs with a foreign background survive.

The EntreFox project is organizing a webinar entitled Light in the Darkest Hour for entrepreneurs on 24 November, the topic of which is the promotion of entrepreneurs’ health and well-being in challenging times. You are welcome to join us to hear expert presentations and discuss the topic in small groups. You can register using the link below: