Not without family: Refugee family entrepreneurship and economic integration process

Khizran Zehra*, Sadia Usmani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Refugee entrepreneurship is increasing because of the increased influx of refugees around the globe. This leaves us with the question that how refugees integrate economically in the host country in the presence of all social, emotional and economic constraints. Existing literature suggests looking into the role of social capital to address refugee economic integration, particularly in developing nations. To acknowledge this call, this paper aims to explore the impact of family social capital on the economic integration process. Particularly, this study has investigated the Afghan refugee entrepreneurial activities and the integration process of Afghan refugees in economic and social spaces in Pakistan.

The study is rooted in 18 in-depth interviews with five participants that run small businesses in the city of Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

The findings revealed Afghan refugee entrepreneurs, develop a different type of family social capital i.e. horizontal and vertical social capital. Afterward, when the acculturation pace up across refugees' generations then they accumulate bridging social capital gradually. The process of economic integration happens in different stages as also shown in the existing literature. Based on (Berry, 2003; Evansluong et al., 2019; Khulman, 1991) economic integration process this paper has discussed three main stages (entry in labor market, gradual integration and gradual sub-merging in host society) of Afghan refugee economic integration in Pakistan and further this study has shown how different steps are arranged within these stages to smoothen the integration process.

Research limitations/implications
With this research, this paper calls for a more nuanced approach to address the challenges that are faced by refugees during their economic integration. Future research on Afghan economic and social integration can contribute to a better understanding of refugee settlement, well-being and self-sufficient status in host countries. One of the limitations of the study is the focus on male participants because female Afghan refugees do not work mostly because of strong patriarchal structures observed in refugee Afghan groups.

Practical implications
Most Afghan entrepreneurs consider them as Pakistani and do not want to repatriate to Afghanistan. This provides an opportunity for Pakistani policymakers to provide regulations and opportunities to Afghan entrepreneurs who want to stay in Pakistan and contribute to their family well-being and economic income generation and employment in Pakistan.

Social implications
The role of the family acts as a means to refugee entrepreneurs' integration in the host country. Strong migration networks and dense family configurations are a source of pride, responsibility, resilience and self-esteem for Afghan refugees to start and expand their businesses.

This study provides the opportunity to explore the under-researched role of family social capital in the migrant and refugee entrepreneurship literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-181
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Enterprising Communities-People and Places in the Global Economy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Family social capital
  • Refugee entrepreneurship
  • Labor market integration
  • Refugee economic integration


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