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Women biggest source of remittance, says expert

31 March 2016

By Marites Palma and Ellen Almacin
Seminar participants and speakers are joined by Consul General Bernardita Catalla.

Migrant women are the biggest source of remittances to the Philippines, according to a migration expert who lectured at the Consulate on Mar. 20 in celebration of International Women’s Month. Joy Tadios-Arenas of Wimler Hong Kong cited studies that showed 85% of all women who work abroad send money regularly to the Philippines, accounting for a large chunk of the US$25 billion total remittance from abroad that was recorded last year. Of this amount, US$780 million came from Hong Kong.
The staggering amounts indicate that up to 54 percent, or more than half of the total Philippine population, is sustained by money sent by overseas Filipino workers, said Tadios-Arenas.
She said her own study conducted between 2012 and 2014 showed that migrant women tend to associate remittance to maintaining relationships with family members or as a tool to repay a debt of gratitude (or utang na loob). Some, however, revealed an active financial management style.
Her study involved 50 migrant women who had families back home, are mostly mothers with more than three dependents, college graduates, and have been working in Hong Kong for more than five years. Three men working abroad were also included in the study.
The money they send home has led women to become empowered enough to set parameters in their remittance, including the selection of the beneficiaries, and determining how often money should be sent.
One of the mothers in the study reportedly said she chose her daughter to be the recipient because she couldn’t trust her husband anymore. Another decided to send money four times a month, fearing her family would spend it all if she sent it all in one go.
To ensure the money is allocated properly, the women have resorted to using the internet to check on projects which they paid for. One participant said she decided to do this because she had been fooled by her own family once into sending money that was not used properly.
Despite having financial freedom, however, many migrant women still resort to taking out loans.
Several reasons were cited for this, including an increase in the number of beneficiaries. Katherine de Guzman of the Philippine National Bank HK said that before, the only recipient for married women were their husbands, and for single migrants, their parents. Now other relatives are added, including children and other relatives, friends, and even alumni associations and investment schemes.
She said migrants should be particularly wary of so-called investments offered by friends and relatives, especially now that scams are very rampant.
Tadios-Arenas said her research showed that Hong Kong migrants took out loans for education, housing, going to Canada, buying a motorcycle or jeepney for the husband, gadgets and even to pay for weddings.
This indicates, according to her, that the loans turn the migrants into heads of the family, homebuilders and decision makers. The borrowed money is used to either manage their family members, or turn them into entrepreneurs or investors.
The downside is that they are forced to accept illegal part time jobs, suffer emotional and psychological stress, and are exposed to a huge risk of delay in repayment. This in turn results in even higher interest rates for their loan, and makes them vulnerable to being abused and harassed by debt collectors.
She exhorted the participants to avoid taking out unnecessary loans so they become truly empowered.
“Yes you are the new heroes of the Philippines. But be a financially wise hero, not a martyr,” she said. “Employ tough love, educate your family members, mind your action and decision, set parameters, criteria and restriction in remittance recipients and allocation.”
In closing the forum, Consul General Bernadita Catalla called on participants to spread the word about what they had learned so friends, relatives and family members would understand and see the real situation of migrant workers.

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