Nearly two years I speculated on reasons why there are so few Filipino restaurants in Australia relative to the large number Filipino migrants.
A secondary purpose was to discuss the uselessness of preference based explanations – not because they could not be true, but because they could not be verified; The only evidence that a set of preferences causes a set of phenomena is the phenomena themselves. Useless.
In the case of Pinoy food a preference explanation would also need to claim that
A) There is something remarkable about Pinoy food that is not true about every other migrant cuisine that has ever come into the country and;
B ) Filipinos are, unlike every other migrant group, disinclined to eat at restaurants of their own cuisine.
My hypothesis instead, was;
i) Ethnic restaurants are common because migrants are likely to start businesses both because of the personality characteristics that led them to migrate in the first place, and greater difficulties finding waged or salaried employment (because of discrimination, or simply a lack of socialisation to tacit things).
ii) The nature of the Filipino diaspora in Australia is gender skewed heavily towards woemen. The remaining careers with ease of entry (cleaning, aged care) are “feminised”. Subsequently a great proportion of the population that would otherwise have to start businesses is able to find paid employment, which they prefer. (The gender skew in business starting accross all ethnicities may also be at play).
iii) Subsequently there is a lack of supply of restaurant starters, not a lack of demand.
It was by far my most popular post on Troppo. I still get comments every week or so. Invariably the comments cite preferences as their favoured explanation, either because Filipino food uses condiments (like, apparently, no other food), or that Filipinos like their mum’s cooking *(like, apparently, no other ethnicity) and so on.
After a brief update last year, I have a more substantial one today.
1) On the weekend I ate in a busy Pinoy restaurant filled with both Filipinos and Australians of other ethnicities. Suck on that revealed preference.
2) Pollytics (Scott Steel) provided this graph yesterday on Twitter. It is business owners by country of birth from the Census. Guess which country is way down the bottom. Although it doesn’t support my speculations about the gender gap, it does support the hypothesis that it is related to the lack of businesses started by Filipinos.
Whilst there are a great number of countries above Australia on the list, there are a few below. Asian countries are mainly below Australia. Of the four Asian countries whose emigrants are more likely to start businesses here than the native born, three have a notable refugee aspect (although refugees and their descendants are now a minority in these communities), as does the number one in Lebanon. This might be related to difficulties in finding wage employment, but its probably just spurious correlation.
I don’t think it makes sense that Asians would be inherently less entrepreneurial – especially when people happily make the opposite claim in relation to the Asian Tigers or China’s economic successes. A far more likely explanation is that the period of Asian migration coincided with the introduction of the skilled migration points system. This means migrants are actively being selected for their capacity to get wage jobs, and not start businesses. (There is still a disparity between Filipinos and their contemporary migrants though).
[fn1] There’s no need for nasty stereotypes around this point, its a demographic fact.