Financial and Social Remittance in the Fight Against Global Poverty

Malnutrition. Lack of access to healthcare, formal schooling, and basic necessities. Absence of voice in decision-making. Global poverty is about so much more than going to bed with an empty stomach. It affects every facet of the lives of people below the poverty line, from their ability to sustain their health to their access to basic resources.

Global Poverty in Context

Since 2000, the rate of global poverty has been cut by more than half, yet millions are still surviving on less than the bare minimum,While this may seem like a far flung problem in developing nations, it affects us at home just as much. In the United States, 40 million people live in poverty. Of that, an additional 18 million survive on less than half of the poverty threshold, a mere $2 a day. Of those, 5.9 million are children.

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While those statistics are stark, they are even more dire as we spread our lens. Globally, 763 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, with one-third of those affected being under the age of 18. These children are vulnerable, malnourished, and are disproportionately dying due to easily preventable conditions. According to the World Health Organization:

  • Nearly 9 million children under the age of five die every year, according to 2007 figures.

  • Around 70% of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.

  • Leading causes of death in under-five children are pneumonia, diarrhoea and health problems during the first month of life.

  • Over one third of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.

  • Children in developing countries are ten times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed countries.

While there is no clear-cut solution to global poverty, an interesting phenomena has recently garnered quite a bit of public interest, especially as the immigration debate continues.

Remittance and Its Effect on Global Poverty

Globally, immigrants sent over $665 billion back to their home countries in 2017 to ease the financial plight of their families. In the United States alone, immigrants set nearly $150 billion.This act, called remittance, is often the reason that legal immigrants come to the United States. It has become a global economic sector of its own, lifting millions out of poverty, and is a major driving force in the reduction of poverty since 2000.

In the Land of Opportunity, prospects for financial success are better than they are in developing areas. The top recipients of remittance from immigrants in the United States included Mexico, India, and China, where rural communities are heavily impacted by poor living conditions and little access to resources such as nearby grocery stores or medical facilities.

In fact, 80% of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural areas without access to vehicles to travel, formal schools for education, or working electrical lines to power their homes.  

The International Fund for Agricultural Development specifically targets these communities, seeking ways to improve their living conditions and decrease the flow of forced migration, in which people feel obligated to illegally immigrate in order to survive.

The IFAD mission clarifies their goal: “Investing in rural people is a long-term solution to so many of the problems we face today. Hunger, poverty, youth unemployment and forced migration – all have deep roots in rural areas; and all can be vastly improved through investing in small-scale agriculture and inclusive rural development.”

According to IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo,“It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people's lives. The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 per cent of the family's household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live.” 

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These remittances have steadily increased, allowing families in struggling communities to be lifted out of poverty and pursue skills that make them better global citizens who can contribute back into their own communities through the sharing of education and resources, called social remittance. In a 2014 study conducted by the International Organization for Migration, they found that immigrants returning from first world countries are in a unique position to bring far more than financial assistance back to their home country.

“Consider migrants and returning migrants, as well as their relatives, friends and colleagues, as human resources that can be used to spread information and contribute to human development, whether through education, health, livelihood, the environment or governance. They can be thought of as agents of change and brokers between the local level and policymakers at the national level.”

Thoughtful, legal immigration empowers the world to rise out of poverty and fosters a global community that shares resources, information, and innovation for the betterment of all.