chapter  10
16 Pages

Ethnic resources, opportunity structure and coping strategies

For decades, scholarly writings on the Chinese in Canada have focused by and large either on the historical development of voluntary ethnic or immigrant associations or on racial hostility towards and discrimination against the Chinese (Con et al. 1982; A. Chan 1983; Chan and Helly 1987; Li 1988; Chan 1991). In comparison, relatively few attempts have been made to examine the development of ethnic businesses among the Chinese in Canada. As this chapter will show, the involvement of Chinese in small business entrepreneurship dates back to the communityʼs early years, before the turn of the nineteenth century. The lack of scholarly interest in Chinese entrepreneurship can be explained partially by the predominantly low socio-economic characteristics of ʻold ʼ Chinese immigrants – at worst, for the large majority, as menial labourers in the personal service industry and, at best, as occasional petty owners of hand laundries or Chinese restaurants, striving to carve out a niche for themselves. The work worlds and histories of the majority of the older generation of Chinese immigrants were perceived and portrayed by laymen, the popular press and even social scientists as marginal, characterised by jobs that were menial and insecure, thus not worth considering.