When we talk remittances, more often than not, the term has a financial connotation to it. But, are remittances restricted to just the transfer of money from one country to another? Or is there more to remittance? Can remittances also be referred to in a social or cultural context? To give this a perspective, over a decade ago, the term ‘Social Remittance’ was coined by Peggy Levitt, a sociologist, who strongly believed that migrants transfer a lot more than just money, to their home countries.
So what are Social Remittances?
Social Remittances — are a set of skills, ideas and practices imbibed by a person in time, that begin to reflect in his or her personality and way of life; in short, it’s the social impact of migration that leads to social development. Migrants continually transfer these additional remittances through conversations with their families back home, through emails or telephone calls and also while interacting personally, when they are vacationing in their home countries or return forever after retirement.
Do Social Remittances impact migrants and their home countries?
Looking at the progress of most developing countries, it is safe to state that social remittances do impact the lives of migrants, their families and societies at large. After living in a developed country and adapting to its lifestyle, a migrant tries to replicate a similar way of life in his or her home country. Basic hygiene, sanitation and infrastructure facilities are the first changes that migrants make towards social development, back home.
Living in foreign countries, migrants observe the various skill sets required for different kinds of jobs and services. They impart this knowledge to their families and friends (who are aspiring migrants) and persuade them to attain higher education and enhance their skills, which will in turn benefit them while they seek jobs abroad. On a macro level, this benefits the economy of the country – as the amount of remittances coming into the country is directly proportional to the number of migrants moving abroad. On the other hand, migrants who have sought advanced training abroad, return home to set up their own businesses, thus also creating employment opportunities in the country.
Though Social Remittance forms an important piece of the migration puzzle, the theory has not yet attained a significant stature in the migration – development study. Remittance studies need to move beyond migration, economies and financial insinuations, to include the social and cultural inferences associated with it. If the theory of Social Remittance is included in migration and remittance studies, it will provide a holistic picture, in the true sense, of the immense contribution of migrants, to their respective countries.
Written by – Sudhesh Giriyan, COO, Xpress Money