The study commissioned by the Economy Ministry showed around 130,000 new companies were started in 2009 in Germany by people without German citizenship – around 30 percent of all new firms set up that year.
The number of companies started by foreigners in Germany has risen by about a quarter since 2005, the report compiled by consulting group Evers & Jung concluded, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
The report said foreigners were three times as likely to start a new company as Germans.
“New firms are lifeblood for the German economy,” German Economy Minister Philipp Rösler, told the paper.
He said it was a good sign that foreigners were choosing to become self-employed in Germany. “It brings more momentum,” he said.
A change has taken place in terms of who starts new companies and what they are, the report suggested.
In 2005 nearly a third of foreigners who started companies in Germany were from countries which had been targeted for guest workers in the 1960s – Turkey and Italy. In 2009 however, the share of foreign company founders from these countries had dropped to around a fifth.
More people from Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, have been starting companies, the study said. Poles are by far the most likely group to start a company.
“In relation to the share of all employable people, Poles try self-employment 15 times as frequently as Germans,” the report said.
This is often seen in the building industry – a third of new Polish companies are in the building trade, mostly as one-man firms. There are also more self-employed Romanians in Germany – the four years after 2005 saw a 63 percent increase in their number.
Much of this development is down to the changing dynamics of migration into Germany, with more people coming from the east rather than the south, the researchers said.
Yet despite their enthusiasm for going it alone, foreigners often have difficulty setting up in Germany. Even great German language skills can leave foreigners at a disadvantage. One person questioned for the study talked of encountering prejudice due to his accent. “Germany is not international enough,” he said.
Other factors which make things difficult include foreigners often finding it difficult to deal with banks and authorities, as well as not having enough information about what support for new companies is on offer.