Remittances: Coming and Going

A snapshot of a money transfer agency in Haiti. Photo by Georgia Poppelwell.
A snapshot of a money transfer agency in Haiti. Photo by Georgia Poppelwell.

A global world with people on the move means money is on the move, too. Some people strike out on their own in a new place to jump at opportunity but millions of people follow migratory paths that have been carved out by economic and social shifts in recent history. In Arrival City we visit the Bangladeshi expat community in London, harboured in a small nook in the big city, and learn about their lives in the UK as well as their ancestral homes back in Bangladesh: palatial homes built by remittances reside over the Asian countryside, small economic centres are lit up with flashy fashion imports from Europe, half-built buildings languishing on the edges of villages that serve as a memory for people who have uprooted themselves and planted their new lives elsewhere.

Moving people around the world and wiring remittances is a big business — people often arrive in new countries in debt as a result and are spend several years trying to offset the cost — and many people profit off the expanded networks. Remittances are the largest source of several countries’ GDP and there are movements in Canada to cap money transfer agencies’ fees for wiring money.

There is also the story of people who travel within their own countries to the big city and send money back home to their families. Despite only being a train ride away or two, many people navigate their way into the big cities and stay there, providing for both themselves and a whole village, but unable to afford the journey back home.

The Toronto Star has a series on remittances here in Toronto, examining the Filipino community, which is growing exponentially in Canada thanks to the Live-in Caregiver Program and economic programs in the Philippines, and Canada’s role in shuffling money around the world — $24 billion in 2012, to be exact. They also have an interactive map that shows the migration of money to and from countries.

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