Over a million Sri Lankan migrant workers are working in the Persian Gulf and other Middle Eastern Countries. Remittances in Sri Lanka average to USD 483.32 from 2009 – 2017. Economist Dr. Nimal Sanderatne identifies Sri Lanka as a ‘remittance-dependent economy’. Highlighting the significant contribution of migrant workers to economy he says,
‘about 80% of the huge trade deficit of USD 5.2 million in 2010 was offset by remittances from abroad’.
Therefore, the labour of these hard working people cannot be undermined.
UN celebrates the International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) on 16 June. It commemorates the financial contribution of migrant workers to the
- well-being of their families back home
- sustainable development agenda of their countries of origin
This day encourages public and private sectors and civil society to collaborate and utilize the financial contributions for the development of these nations.
The Background Story
Till about year 2002, remittances did not account as a contribution to the economy. This changed as the workers that migrated long-distance had to recourse for that option of leaving behind their families in dire economic circumstances so that they could support their dependents. These families were large in number and the remittances were useful in uplifting their lives. It also relieved the State burdens of supporting poorest families utilizing limited state resources.
Furthermore UN reports in the 21st century, there are 250 million international migrants worldwide living outside their home country. 750 million people worldwide benefit from the remittances of these migrant workers. National development agendas could no longer ignore these contributions. There arose a genuine need to make use of these monies in a way that maximized the efforts made by these workers and they started to matter. The IDFR thus advocates the need to enhance policies on national development priorities.
Effective Usage of the Remittances of Migrant Workers
Remittances have become an investment on rural peoples. These flows provide millions of households with funds to raise living standards of rural families above subsistence and vulnerability levels. The income goes toward improving health, education and housing, and also for starting or expanding businesses. Remittances have the potential of solving youth unemployment problems if these rural communities are provided with the appropriate entrepreneurial training for sustainable livelihoods so that the younger generation does not have to follow in the footsteps of the older generation to live far away from their homes.
Some of the migrant workers work under harsh conditions. They too have rights and may demand for certain privileges. The Host States are responsible for developing policies that protect the rights of the migrant employees.
In addition, the IDFR is a call on the governments to guarantee the
- safety of migrant workers,
- their labor conditions,
- safe passage internationally to deliver the remittances to their families and loved ones keeping in mind that these are the most vulnerable of populations for whom these earnings matter as a critical lifeline.