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Remittances and social resilience: a study of migrant households in Bangladesh
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posted on 14.02.2017by Sikder, Mohammad Jalal Uddin
Migration within and beyond the territory that now constitutes Bangladesh has historically been an important livelihood strategy for many of its people. Existing studies on migration and remittances in Bangladesh provide little insight on remittances from the perspective of migrant households and how migrant households use of this source of income. This study adopts a micro-social analysis of thirty six migrant households in three selected villages in Bangladesh to examine the contribution of remittances to migrant households. The ethnographic methodology used in this study aims to better understand the role of remittances at the level of the household.
The study found that remittances do not occur in a social vacuum and are part of more complex phenomena of migration and labour. The inward remittances play an important role in providing new opportunities for migrant households and contribute to the resilience of migrant households as well as villages. The interviews with householders reveal that remittances make an important contribution to improving the economic circumstances of migrant households by contributing to their expenditure allocations, income diversification and spreading risk more generally.
The study reveals that in the absence of formal or informal markets for credit, insurance and/or commodity exchanges, remittances respond to households’ demands for financial resources. Remittances contribute to improving the life chances of individuals and households; they improve living standards by funding household expenditure on food, clothing, consumer goods, housing and the education of family members.
The research data for this study depicts a more complex picture of remittances than has been presented by previous research and this in turn leads us to embrace a more cautious interpretation of the benefits of remittances. The study reveals that the social and economic benefits of remittances are not equally celebrated by all migrant households as one would anticipate; the poorest of the poor continue in their struggles for livelihood. However, even those who have benefitted least from migrant remittances recognise the importance of this source of income in transforming the social fortunes by enabling households to endure and overcome immediate pressures, respond to challenges as they arise and plan for the future.
The study makes an important contribution in drawing attention to the concept of ‘social resilience’ as a theoretical tool for understanding and explaining the impacts of remittances on households.