LOW-INCOME Filipino migrants send remittances that are more than twice the monthly household income their families earn at home, a study found, causing their beneficiaries to have a tendency to “over-depend” on them.
The study also found that one in five recipients struggle with running out of money until the next remittance is sent to them as they budget cash sent by family members working abroad mostly to daily needs and to pay for loans and bills.
US-headquartered Uniteller Philippines launched the first part of a study that delved into remittance markets in Asia entitled “Both Sides of the Coin: The Receiver’s Story” on Monday which found that the average value of remittance transactions sent by low-income overseas Filipino workers averaged $343. Meanwhile, the average monthly household income of the families they left at home was at $196.
This compares to the average value of remittances in other similar markets such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam at $498.
Among Asian markets, receivers of remittances in the Philippines and Indonesia allotted the most (25%) for day-to-day family needs, compared to Vietnam (24%) India (18%). The study also found that a quarter of what low-income Filipino recipient families receive from remittances allocate the money for bill and loan payments.
Filipino respondents of the survey also said they allotted monthly for education (13%) medical needs (11%), as well as non-essential luxury items (7%).
Recipients of remittances from Filipino migrant workers allocated 13% of what they receive for savings.
“Remittances are playing a more important role in the livelihoods of low-income families and communities. As the reliance on remittances grows, a key challenge is ensuring this income translates to building sustainable wealth,” UniTeller CEO Alberto Guerra said in a statement on Monday.
But despite receiving money that is more than twice what their household earns locally, 19% of respondents from the Philippines said they still run out of money before they get their next monthly remittance from their family members abroad.
“In the Philippines, 72% say that they will contact the sender when short of money, with over half (53%) saying they will ultimately have to forgo day-to-day needs if they exhaust their remittance funds,” the report noted.
Additionally, 41% of Filipino respondents said they experienced emotional stress due to expectations of receiving resistance. Meanwhile, more than half (54%) of them said receiving remittances has had an impact with their relationship to the sender.
“Maybe it’s a regular [monthly] thing but in the end, it’s not assured right? Something [may happen] to the sender side or to the receiver side. Remember we have a lot of vacations, some calamities,” UniTeller Philippine Country President Noel Cristal told reporters during the study’s media briefing held in Taguig on Monday.
The survey is a product of 1,911 interviews in Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines with remittance recipients belonging to low-income households. Among the interviewees, 606 were from the Philippines.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that about 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers in 2018. This has placed the country as the fourth- largest remittance recipient with $34 billion received in 2018, according to World Bank data, only lagging behind India ($79 billion), China ($67 billion), and Mexico ($36 billion).
Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed cash remittances grew 8% to $2.671 billion in October from $2.474 billion a year ago. — L.W.T. Noble