Excerpts from this blog post came from the New York Times arictle, “Economic Freeze Cuts Remittances, a Lifeline for Migrants’ Families” April 2020 and the CNN artcile, “Virus Cuts Off Lifeline for Many of World’s Poorest” May 2020.
On May 2020, I helped my cousin send money to his family in the Philippines. He sent $100, a lifeline to his family who are also in quarantine. Migrant workers globally send hundreds of billions of dollars home every year. The economic paralysis with the coronavirus pandemic threatens that.
“If the economy gets any more difficult,” another cousin commented, “Baka wala na silang makain (well, we don’t know how we’re going to eat).”
The pandemic — and government measures to combat it — are snapping financial lifelines around the world. As millions of workers in the United States and elsewhere see their hours cut or lose their jobs entirely, many are no longer able to send money to relatives and friends back home who depend on these remittances to survive.
Migrants and others sent some $689 billion in global remittances in 2018, according to the World Bank, helping to reduce poverty in developing countries, boosting household spending on education and health care, and helping to keep social and political discontent at bay.
The story of my cousin and his family is not unique. Millions of Filipinos are working all over the globe. They continually send money back home, a critical lifeline for many. However, with the Covid19 pandemic and economic lock downs all over the world, that lifeline is under threat.
Maria Cristina Y Baolos got fired from her job as a domestic worker in Hong Kong a few weeks ago and she was left homeless. CNN News reported that the 46-year-old Filipina says she was paid out in cash for her notice period, then given an hour to pack her things and leave. After hours of being stranded on the side of the road with all her belongings, eventually a friend helped her find a temporary boarding house.
“I’m sitting on the floor, all my luggage there,” Baolos said. “The life of a helper, it’s not easy.” Many of the 390,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong are women, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, who are working abroad to send money back to their families. The Philippines consulate in Hong Kong says around 350 domestic workers from that country have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
Before she was laid off, Baolos was sending a third of her income home to support her four sons, a husband who can’t work due to the lockdown, and a mother who needs expensive medical treatment. The story of Maria Cristina is not unique. There are probably countless stories like hers that are not told, of families struggling to make ends meet during the Covid19 pandemic.
“The human scale of this phenomenon is very, very large,” Dilip Ratha of the World Bank said. “They won’t be able to buy food; they cannot sustain their families’ livelihoods.” Covid19 has disrupted many lives, including those that are already hanging in the balance before the pandemic hit.