If you are an Indian working abroad, the chances are that you remit money to India. Indeed, among migrant workers from countries across the world, Indians top the list of those who send money home on a regular basis.
According to the Migration Data Portal of the European Commission, as of March 2019, there were 16.6 million Indians working abroad. The majority of them send money to India on a more or less consistent basis. In 2018 alone, over 16 million Indian migrants sent the staggering US $80 billion back home to India (Chinese workers abroad, who were second on the list, remitted a comparatively lower US$ 67 billion to their home country during the same year).
Here are five reasons why Indian workers send money to India.
Firstly, most Indian migrant workers come from the less well-to-do sections of society. They work abroad while sending money back home regularly to meet their families’ basic day to day expenses like food, clothing, children’s educational expenses, medicine, and hospital expenses, and occasionally, towards expenditure for weddings, festivals, and funerals, among others. This is apart from periodic remittances made towards personal savings, construction of houses, and investing in family businesses. Often, for the average Indian, ‘family’ also includes the extended one of grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces. Any of them, at any time, maybe in need of financial help. Who better to solve their urgent money issues than the relative working abroad?
India’s overseas worker also has a keen sense of his or her larger community and is quick to act during national emergencies – as happened during the floods of August 2019 that devastated the state of Kerala. Millions of Indians working abroad were quick to respond to the catastrophe by sending in money, food, clothing, and medicines.
Secondly, around half of the overseas Indian working force lives in the oil-rich Gulf nations. A majority of them work as laborers and in skilled and semi-skilled professions. Among overseas Indian workers, they are the major remitters of money back to India. The recent hike in oil prices has only seen them in an even better position to send money to India.
A third reason is that, apart from those working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, much of the Indian Diaspora lives and works in the more developed countries like the US, Canada and in Western Europe and Australia. The economies of these countries have registered steady economic growth ever since the recession of 2009-2012. Therefore, more Indians working there are sending money to India than ever before.
Interestingly, it has been noted that even during periods of an occasional economic slump in one of these above countries, the flow of remittances home from the Indian overseas worker, there has never drastically fallen. He or she in the affected country has simply cut down on personal expenses to make sure that regular remittances home aren’t much affected.
Fourthly, the job profile of the Indian migrant worker has been changing over the last couple of decades. Today, more Indians work abroad as doctors, engineers, teachers and IT and software professionals than earlier. Others are going abroad to work simply to experience new cultures. Many of these latter-day workers intend returning to India at some point and therefore remit a good part of their earnings regularly back to the home country with an eye to investing in their future there.
Last but not least, it is easier to send money home to India today than ever before. Gone are the days when money orders and bank drafts were the norms for making remittances to India. Today money can be sent through online and wire transfers, ACH or Automated Clearing House transfers, and through money transfer agencies like Ria Money Transfer, who deliver money more quickly and at less cost than others.
Remittances from overseas workers contribute significantly to a country’s GDP (the share of remittances from India’s overseas workers to its GDP was 2.7 in 2017). With this in mind, national governments (including India’s) and the UN through its Self Development Goals (UNSDG) program are striving to improve money transfer services and make it faster, easier and more cost-efficient. The volume of foreign-worker remittances to India may vary year to year, depending on economic conditions worldwide, but it will no doubt continue to ensure the all-round well of their loved ones and the community for years to come.