The migrant worker’s hardship of sending money back home 

By: Callum Denault 

Published on: April 14 2023

Photo: Eduardo Davad (Pixabay)  

One billion people are involved with remittances, which are payments of money migrants send to friends and family members in their home countries. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, 200 million migrant workers send money back home to 800 million recipients every year. Remittances are typically sent to households with an average of four people living inside them. 

Migrants sent home the equivalent of $554 billion USD in 2019, which is triple the amount of money provided by foreign government aid. It is also higher than the sum of all corporate investments in these developing nations. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, remittances maintained a steady flow even when several nations—including developed countries—struggled economically.  

The burden caused by a family relying on income from an overseas relative can cause stress as found by a Filipino study conducted by international payments company UniTellar. Over half of those getting remittances in the Philippines said it impacted the relationship they had with their overseas relatives. 40 per cent of the survey’s respondents also said the anticipation of receiving money caused their families emotional stress. A significant amount of remittances are spent on non-essential luxuries. Poor financial planning creates more problems for the one-fifth of survey respondents who said they regularly run out of money before they receive their next remittance.  

Looking at these different sources of information, it can be said that migrants work very hard to make sure their families back home have enough money to live on. So hard, in fact, that their remittances combined are a greater amount of money than what companies and governments send to developing nations. Even during global crises that hinder the economy such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the war in Ukraine, migrants either remain steady in the amount of cash they send home or even increase how much money they give away. The study conducted in the Philippines also shows this hard work is not without its cost, as in many cases families rely on their overseas relatives for necessary income, which can cause interpersonal stress. 

So, how can migrants manage this stress? 

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto (Pexels) 

Advice on how to deal with overworking 

People are overworked when they do not have a healthy work/life balance, and spend too much time on the job without taking enough breaks. Overwork leads to burnout, which is when you feel mentally exhausted, stressed, emotionally distant from your job and unable to efficiently finish your tasks. 

Just as it is important for migrants to send their families enough money to cover their essentials, it is also important to remember the stress of overworking kills over 745 000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization. People who work 55 hours or more per week face a 35 per cent increased risk of stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those who work a normal 35 to 40 hours per week. 

Indeed—a website that posts job listings along with work advice articles—gives nine tips on how to deal with being overworked: 

  • Set boundaries. 
  • Communicate with your manager. 
  • Complete one task at a time. 
  • Incorporate easier tasks into your workflow. 
  • Make meaningful connections. 
  • Use your paid time off. 
  • Practice relaxation techniques. 
  • Find hobbies you enjoy. 
  • Decide if you should find a new job.” 

Some of the suggestions focus on your life outside of work, such as meditating and taking advantage of all your paid days off, if you have any. Indeed’s advice about speaking to your manager and setting boundaries with your workplace—getting things done on time, while also drawing a line in your personal life for times where you will not think about work—can also apply to migrants and the families they send remittances to.  

If you feel you are overworked trying to make enough money to regularly send back home, have an honest conversation with your family about how much they can expect and when they should expect it.  

Lecturing family members on how they spend money is not the best idea. It may seem like lectures are coming from a place of judgement, which might make your relatives feel guilty about their spending habits. A better idea is to offer judgment-free suggestions on how they can save money. 

It may help to suggest possible alternative ways for your relatives to make money. Make sure your relatives have a good reason to ask you for money, and do not give the cash that you need for your essentials like food or shelter. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests people who are stressed over taking care of someone else focus on what they are able to provide. While it is normal to feel guilt, no one is a perfect caretaker, which is why you should take pride in the good decisions you do make. It is also a good idea to find help for yourself, either through friends, a support group, or your doctor. Make sure to only set realistic goals for yourself, and make sure you are taking care of your personal physical and mental health outside of providing for your family. 

Finding a better line of work as a migrant in Canada 

If you are working an under the table job, it would be better for your health and safety to leave the job and find work that pays legally. 

The Canadian government has a program for skilled workers to immigrate permanently into Canada. Not every immigrant is eligible for this program, but having work experience in your home country helps, as do other skillsets that would help you adapt to working in Canada, such as fluency in English and/or French.  

For those planning to live in Canada for a long time, it may be worthwhile to study here if you have not done so already. You can apply to study as a newcomer either online or through paperwork here. This website includes a list of different countries at the bottom, so you can choose which country you are emigrating from in order to see which documents you need to apply for education in Canada. 

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