Remittances as a Currency of Care: A Focus on 'Twice Migrants' among the Indian Diaspora in Australia
Singh, Supriya, Cabraal, Anuja, Robertson, Shanthi, Journal of Comparative Family Studies
Remittances to developing countries have become the focus of increasing attention as they are the largest international flow of money, larger than foreign direct investment and more than double the size of foreign aid (Development Prospects Group, 2007). Policy makers and economists have focused overwhelmingly on remittances from North-South because of their greater total value. South-South remittances have not received the same attention, though they impact nearly the same number of families. This lack of attention to South-South remittances is important for as Ratha et al. (2008) note South-South migration is nearly as large as South-North migration (Ratha, Mohapatra and Xu, 2008).
Developing countries in 2008 received an estimated USD 328 billion. India received the largest amount, estimated at USD 52 billion. Remittances comprise different kinds of monies that flow from migrants to their home country. These include regular and occasional amounts of money sent to the family for housekeeping, investment, re-payment of debts or gift money for special occasions. Migrants also send money home for community development, like the building of a mosque or school. In addition, there is money sent for investment such as the purchase of land or the building of a house. Though remittances in 2009 are expected to fall by 7.3 percent, remittances are more stable and resilient than private flows and official aid to developing countries (Ratha, Mohapatra and Silwal, 2009).
We follow the World Bank in defining the South as low and middle-income countries, excluding the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.12 percent of the remittances come from countries of the South (see Figure 1). This may be an underestimate for it does not count irregular migrants (Ratha and Shaw, 2007). Developing countries like India, Malaysia, Russia and South Africa both receive migrants and are the source of migrants (Ratha et al., 2008). Similarly, they receive and are the source of remittances. In 2006, Malaysia for instance remitted USD 5.5 billion while receiving USD 1.3 billion (Asian Development Bank, 2006).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Inadequate data collection is one of the reasons for the lack of attention to South--South migration and remittances (Ratha and Shaw, 2007). We would also like to suggest that in the creative imagination of the South, migration is identified only with current migration to the North. This is despite the fact that migrants to both the South and the North have long sent money home. Chinese migrants to Malaysia sent money home via Chinese banks in the 1930s and 1940s (Singh, 1984). Indians who migrated to California in the early years of the 20th century sent money home using postal foreign money orders (Leonard, 1992). This money was not as frequent or large in value as the money being sent from the United States by Indian professionals in recent years.
Recently, media and literature have engaged more attentively with new diasporas that have formed since the 1960s than those with an older history. Concerning the old Indian diaspora, the literature on Indians in Malaysia, Kenya, and Mauritius is only just appearing (see Ghosh, 2008; Samarasan, 2008; Vassanji, 2003). Few films come to mind that deal with migrants of the old diaspora. Mississippi Masala (1991, directed by Mira Nair) is an exception, dealing with an Indian family expelled from Uganda in the time of Idi Amin and their move to Mississippi.
Mira Nair's film is also an exception in that it deals with "twice migrants" (Bhachu, 1999). The term "twice migrants" denotes people whose family histories include more than one migration, including those who have migrated from an old diaspora to (and themselves forming) a new diaspora. Popular accounts usually neglect this earlier South-South migration and the subsequent multiple migrations. This neglect of twice migrants also ignores the mobility of migrant families today. Family histories of direct migrants can, in this understanding of the term "twice migrants," also involve multiple destinations through their children, some in the South, and others in the North.
Twice migrants are furthermore invisible in the economic studies of remittances and remittance data. Remittance data, often through the balance of payments, track money to the home country rather than along the nodes of the diaspora. Economic studies of remittances also reaffirm migration as a linear move from the country of birth to the destination country, for their focus is on the impact of remittances on development and alleviation of poverty in the country of birth (Ratha et al., 2008; Helweg, 1983; Kuptsch and Martin, 2004; Oberai and Singh, 1980).
Our study aims to fill some of these gaps in the study of remittances, particularly for twice migrants. Some of this migration started as South-South migration leading on to further South-North and then North-North migration. Our study also complements the dominant economic perspective in the study of remittances with a sociological approach, seeing money as a medium of relationships and care. In the next section we introduce our qualitative study and explain how it differs from earlier studies of remittances. In the third section we place remittances within the frameworks of the sociology of money and care. We discuss the kinds of remittances sent by our participants to different members of the family in their home country, relating them to issues of care. We also delve into the generational differences in remittance behavior. In the fourth section we focus on the tensions in remittances as a currency of care. In the fifth section we discuss the impact of remittances on the transnational family. In the concluding section we summarize our findings and examine their implications for the way we research money and the transnational family.
THE QUALITATIVE STUDY
Our ongoing qualitative study is about migrants from India and the Indian diaspora to Australia. The focus is on the ways in which family remittances contribute to a migrant's sense of belonging to his or her transnational family. We are particularly concerned with the way these remittances help ensure the care of the family members left behind. Our study privileges the perspectives of the migrants in Australia, thus balancing the more dominant emphasis on the receivers of remittances in economic and sociological literature. Our study also includes multiple migrations from Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and the United Kingdom and onward migration from Australia to Singapore, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
The qualitative study at present covers 19 migrants identifying with the Indian diaspora in Melbourne, Australia. Our sample includes seven twice migrants--three from Singapore, two from Kenya, one from Malaysia and one from the United Kingdom. Another three direct migrants have seen members of their family migrate to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
All except one of our participants migrated to Australia with their nuclear (conjugal) families, or their nuclear families joined them shortly afterwards. In some cases, members of their natal families have followed. Hence the experience of migration and the transnational family and the need to remit are different from those in other studies that deal with situations in which only one member of the family migrated, leaving a spouse, children and natal family behind (Kurien, 2002).
Considering the ethnic diversity of India it is important to note that our sample was predominantly Hindu and Sikh, with nine Hindus, seven Sikhs, one Muslim, and two Christians. Participants were mainly from Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. We interviewed nine women and ten men. In terms of age, our sample was varied, with 12 of the 19 over 45 years of age-one was between 18 and 24, four between 25 and 34, three between 45 and 54, three were 55-64, six were over 65 years and two did not say. Only the 18-24-year-old was born in Australia. The migration history in Australia was similarly diverse, ranging from 5 to 24 years. It was predominantly a middle-income sample, with household incomes of over 50,000 Australian dollars (AUD).
Placing our study within a comparative perspective, we note that in the families in our sample, the male migrant is the primary earner. This differs from studies focusing on men who have migrated leaving their families behind, or women who have migrated to work in caregiving professions overseas, leaving their children …
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Publication information: Article title: Remittances as a Currency of Care: A Focus on 'Twice Migrants' among the Indian Diaspora in Australia. Contributors: Singh, Supriya - Author, Cabraal, Anuja - Author, Robertson, Shanthi - Author. Journal title: Journal of Comparative Family Studies. Volume: 41. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2010. Page number: 245+. © 1998 University of Calgary. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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