Asian Self-Employment: The Interaction of Culture and Economics in England


Self-employment has grown disproportionately amongst South Asians. Today, one third of Asian men in paid employment are self-employed, compared to one fifth of white men. In some parts of the UK, Asian businesses are expanding more rapidly than those of any other group. Yet these positive trends mask a more complex and less optimistic picture than is commonly painted. There are sharp differences in levels of business success between various groups in the Asian community, and indications suggest that the remarkable growth seen over recent decades is losing its momentum, as the first generation British Asians encourage their children to move into professional and salaried careers.

This study offers, for the first time, a detailed comparison of different Asian communities, and challenges the common assumption that all Asian groups can be regarded as the same. Amongst its findings, it identifies:

  • ways in which culture and religion could impact on entry into self-employment, on the development of the business and on satisfaction with self-employment
  • how negative factors such as racism at work and 'dead-end jobs' have led to increased levels of self-employment
  • barriers to success in business, and how specific problems are more prevalent amongst specific Asian groups
  • the need to target assistance, and
  • evidence that Asian self-employment may not continue at its current high rates.