Money Sent Home Vital for Survival
Monday, August 27, 2007
At least three or four times a year, Saher sends a portion of her salary home. The money helps her parents buy necessities, and even creates a bit of savings in a place where the few jobs that still exist often don’t pay for months, if at all. Saher al-Jamil tries to call home, but once again the lines are dead.
She isn’t worried because she is used to that by now. Reaching her parents in Gaza is no easy task, what with electricity being so unpredictable there. Everything is unpredictable there, she says.
Living in Canada is tough for Saher because she wants to be closer to her parents, to be able to help them with the daily challenges of life in Gaza. But since she can’t be, the 27-year-old office manager from Toronto does the next best thing ? she sends them money.
At least three or four times a year, Saher sends a portion of her salary home. The money helps her parents buy necessities, and even creates a bit of savings in a place where the few jobs that still exist often don’t pay for months, if at all.
Saher even helped pay for her sister’s university education.
“When you have an economy that has broken down, the only way people have a livelihood is through these transfers,” she explains.
Saher is one of millions of migrants around the world who send money home on a regular basis, providing a lifeline to the outside world and a way to fight off poverty for millions of people.
In 2005 alone, migrants sent $232 billion home to relatives all over the world through banks and money transfers. Of that, $167 billion went to developing countries ? far greater than the amount of official development assistance.
Even with greater scrutiny under the war on terror, money transferring remains vibrant. Western Union alone has 312,000 locations in more than 200 countries worldwide, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. It has nearly 40 locations in Baghdad alone.
In places without Western Unions, informal money transfers are still common. Many migrants use elaborate systems of family networks that connect people in the remotest parts of the world.
A migrant in Canada, for example, can give $1,000 to a well-known family here, who in turn arrange for their own relatives to give that same amount to the migrant’s relatives back home.
With undocumented transactions like these happening daily, it’s impossible to know just how much money is funnelled back to the developing world.
A report last year by the World Bank concluded that these transfers are invaluable to everything from poverty alleviation to local investment and even small business entrepreneurship.
“With the number of migrants worldwide now reaching 200 million, their productivity and earnings are a powerful force for poverty reduction,” Fran?ois Bourguignon, the World Bank’s chief economist, said at the time of the report.
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