Youthink! The World Bank's blog for youth
Syndicate content

Sending Money Home

Christine Cassar's picture

The change in weather brings with it many a connotation: exam time, beach days, and holidaying. Yet for some, the trip they make this summer will not be on a jet plane or to a resort; they will attempt a trip out of misery, for themselves and their families.

The past few weeks I have been exploring the socio-economic impact of remittances. Whilst statistics look promising, with development, education and entrepreneurship gaining ground, I realized that my researched population is somewhat different and suffers many issues that most studies do not discuss.

We have a tendency in the “West” to put all migrants in the same basket. It’s as though there are two categories: locals and foreigners, or us and them. Whilst this may be the case legally (after all, you are either a citizen or not, or a resident or not), it is miles away from reality. Nothing shows this clearer than remittances.

There are four key points:

a. Political conditions
Many countries’ political conditions are such that indefinite military service, border disputes, powerful warlords, militia and the like lead to a general lack of human security. This means that the political conditions are not such as to encourage investment (from nationals, as well as FDI).

b. National resources
Whilst countries such as Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia boast many natural resources, there are two reasons for their lack of use: knotted internal/external interests and a lack of resource utilization strategies that would trickle down to all levels of the population. If the resources are there and are not being utilized, it seems that remittances can do little to change this, as investment in such structures is anyhow disallowed.

c. Remittances to IDP camps
Temporary housing, be this IDP camps or other temporary arrangements because of civil or political strife, are certainly not breeding grounds for development since the critical motivation for people to invest in local structures would indeed be their receiving a return on them. This is close to impossible in permanently temporary arrangements.

d. The economic cycle
Unfortunately, whilst we assume that an increase in resources will boost consumption, which will in turn instigate production and lead to greater income, the above conditions are more likely to lead to an increase in demand for imports, and a cycle of dependency.

So whilst remittances may indeed provide some livelihood for those who could otherwise not sustain themselves, it seems that all one could do in a situation of utmost despair, where some resources are becoming available, is flee!


Submitted by Michael Boampong on
Many thanks for the post Christine, it is very informative and sparks a lot of questions as to why some many young people in recent times would like to jeopardize their lives for the fields/pastures which are no longer green for reasons due to the global economic crises. Within the past weeks i have been reading a publication that was funded by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), and it based on the findings of a research work on irregular migration (i use irregular migration because there is a new thinking which is quiet acceptable now that no human being is illegal and that the use of the work illegal is dehumanizing), and it points out that for most of the young people who migrate it is because of the fact that the realities at home is not promising enough to help them leave a decent life if even there are claims that you must have hope in your country that it shall be better. I have come to realize that for most countries like Ghana and most developing countries there are no strategic youth development plans for helping young people to be social entrepreneurs or to be absorbed public institutions. Ghana for instance is supplying a lot of graduate students with less demand from existing institutions. Unemployment rates are galloping.At the end of the day it is not just the uneducated who do not know that irregular migration is dangerous to undertake but also the educated are also embarking on such a journey. I think that African governments are doing more but there is more room for improvement. There must be institutional strategies which are driven by Public-Private Sector partnerships for assisting youth through mentoring and other programmes that are less expensive and bring up a new generation of youth who will be job creators. This was also evident in a Youth Migration Consultation that was organized by YPWC. See the briefing report from here: I would want to commend the support of the Italian Government to Ghana through a Labour export programme that will recruit some 1000 Ghanaians for jobs in Italy. This are really some of the practical steps towards reducing irregular migration and other states or countries must follow. I think in the wake of the Global Economic Recession states must work under the call for Global Partnership for Development as evident in the MDG 8. One thing that came into mind when i read this story from the newspaper was that there will be the need for the government of Ghana to ensure in agreements signed that the rights of these people are not going to abused. Most at times the rights of some immigrants are abused in the host countries. It is also a question of whether some of these highly industrialized nations have committed themselves to ensuring the rights of immigrants. I have realized that non of the industrialized nations have ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families adopted in 1990 by the UN. Why is it so? For most times migrants rights have been relegated to the background with maximum attention on remittances and contribution of migrants to development of host countries and sending countries. There needs to be a paradigm shift to consider the rights of immigrants. Migrant Rights are equal to Human Rights. It must be honored. Additionally the social cost of migration on children left behind is also a important area of consideration.

Submitted by Maria on
Christine and Michael, It's always great to see how our realities can be so similar, even when our countries are in different continents and immerse in different cultures. In Colombia also migration has been a great issue, both from an internal and external point of view. People are migrating from rural areas to the cities because of the huge gap there is between the quality of life between these areas. Also, people are migrating to other countries irregularly (like Michael says) to look for better opportunities. In fact I mention in my latest blog post that in Valle del Cauca, western Colombia, there are a lot of young people whose parents left the country years ago and now they are receiving the remittances Christine mentions from their parents, but are all alone here without any guidance, which increases drug and alcohol abuse problems... we (and by "we" i mean youth from all around the world) have to figure out how to improve this situation that is so common now.