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The Australian National University

Indigenous employment and businesses: Whose business is it to employ Indigenous workers?

Working Paper 95 / 2014

Abstract

The number of Indigenous entrepreneurs (self-employed people) has increased by a factor of around three over the past two decades. However, little is known about demand for Indigenous labour and the relationship of Indigenous workers to their employers. Even less is known about Indigenous businesses. Supply Nation has adopted a definition of such businesses that requires that Indigenous stakeholders hold majority equity, but some researchers have argued that this definition should be relaxed to include businesses in which Indigenous people hold only half the equity in the enterprise. This paper uses data from Industry Capability Network (ICN) Queensland, which has collected basic business information on a large number of businesses operating in Queensland. The findings reveal that Indigenous businesses have substantially better outcomes for Indigenous employment than non-Indigenous businesses—a result that holds even when the definition of Indigenous business is relaxed. The paper also documents how Indigenous employment is concentrated in larger businesses in particular industry sectors. Non-Indigenous micro-businesses employ relatively few Indigenous workers, and future research should explore why this is the case. To understand the issues involved, it will be necessary to collect multi-level data that link detailed information on employers and employees (including a substantial sample of Indigenous workers).

Keywords: Business and Indigenous employment, entrepreneurs, Indigenous-friendly workplaces

ISSN: 
1442 3871
ISBN: 
0 73154993 7

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