Working paper abstract

#2016-071

Skills and entrepreneurship: Are return migrants 'Jacks-of-all-trades'?

Clotilde Mahé

This paper examines whether and how return migrants may be more likely to be entrepreneurs. With reference to Lazear's Jack-of-all-trades hypothesis, we posit that return migrants may be more likely to choose self-employment as a result of the diverse work experience they gain as migrants. Using the 2012 Egyptian Labour Market Panel Survey, seemingly unrelated regression model estimates show that return migration increases the propensity to be self-employed, controlling for the possession of savings. This is found to be due to a Jack-of-all-trades effect, whereby migration helps accumulating more occupations and jobs. Sector-specific rather than multi-sector experience may also benefit entrepreneurship, as it was found that the more industries an emigrant worked in, the less the probability of self-employment upon return. Self-employed might thus need a generalist, balanced mix of occupational skills, within a relatively narrow set of industries. These findings hold for non-agricultural activities.

JEL Classification: F22, J24, L26, O12, O15

Keywords: International migration, Return migration, Entrepreneurship, Human capital, North Africa, Egypt