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Child Labor in Guatemala's Coffee Industry
Many coffee consumers do not recognize what goes into making their morning cup of joe. Coffee is one of the major crops that child workers cultivate across the globe, including Guatemala, where major U.S. companies such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Kirkland source their coffee beans. Guatemala is working to reverse the damage the decades-long civil war (1960 to 1996) inflicted upon its children, indigenous population and industries, but the country still needs to do a lot. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Guatemala’s Coffee Industry

  1. Guatemala is the ninth biggest coffee exporter in the world. Sharing 2.7 percent of the world’s coffee market, Guatemala is one of the largest coffee exporters in the world. Coffee, along with bananas, sugar and spices, accounts for 40 percent of all agricultural export revenue for the country. Major U.S. companies such as Starbucks, Kirkland and Dunkin Donuts source their coffee beans from Guatemala.
  2. The minimum employment age is 14. Guatemalan law prohibits children under the age of 14 from employment unless they are in extreme circumstances; however, the Guatemalan government has failed to enforce this labor law. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s human rights report in 2018, approximately 1 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are working in Guatemala. Child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry is more prevalent in rural areas where extreme poverty is more common.
  3. Children as young as 5 years old are working in hazardous conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s report on Guatemala’s labor condition in 2018, child coffee workers were using machetes and other tools that can pose a physical danger. Furthermore, the investigators found that child workers were also mixing and applying pesticides during their work. This is a violation of the International Labor Union’s (ILO) conventions on child labor, as it clearly puts under-aged children in work conditions that can harm their health and development.
  4. Guatemala’s child labor is linked to migrant coffee workers. Coffee harvest in Guatemala depends on a seasonal influx of migrant workers. These migrant workers come from the Guatemalan Highlands. Many migrant workers bring their wives and their children to a coffee farm. In order to increase the family income, children as young as 7 or 8 years old participate in coffee picking. Since these workers are not permanent workers, they usually do not demand year-round wages and benefits. This drives the wage down for coffee harvesters, which can limit access to food, health care, housing and education for their children.        
  5. Many coffee workers are internal migrants. The native population of Guatemala, most of whom are of Mayan descent, make up around 40 percent of the total population of the country. Many are migrant workers and they do not always speak Spanish, leaving them in a vulnerable position when negotiating labor conditions with their employers. Oftentimes, they do not receive payment for their labor, but rather buy food from the plantation owner on credit. As a result, many of these internal migrant families find themselves trapped by debt. Some plantation owners also withhold these families’ identification papers, making it extremely hard for them to leave their employers.
  6. Fluctuating coffee prices have major impacts on the poor coffee farmers and children of Guatemala. While demand for Guatemala’s coffee is increasing, many coffee farmers in Guatemala find themselves in poverty. The World Bank, in its 2019 article about Guatemala’s economy, stated that 48.8 percent of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty. When coffee prices rise, poor coffee worker families will withdraw their children from school to have them work as an extra field hand, causing an increase in child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry. When coffee prices fall, however, these families’ income decreases, which can also prevent their children from attending school.
  7. Children work under the watch of armed guards. Danwatch’s 2016 exposé documented migrant workers and their children picking coffee under the watch of armed guards. Under these kinds of conditions, it is not surprising that organizing a labor union is a major challenge for these workers. Labor union representatives of Guatemala can sometimes become the target of violence, armed attacks and even assassination. According to data from the International Trade Union Confederation, people murdered more than 53 union representatives between 2007 and 2013. 
  8. Major companies, such as Starbucks, are working with multiple certification organizations to produce ethically sourced coffee. Since 2004, Starbucks has complied with C.A.F.E (Coffee And Farmer Equity) Practices by working with organizations such as the Fair Trade U.S.A., Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and Utz. According to Conservation International’s (CI) 2018 report on the Starbucks C.A.F.E Practices from 2011 to 2015, 100 percent of the participating farms did not use children in their labor force. Furthermore, 100 percent of the participating farms ensured that children on the farm would have access to school education.
  9. The Guatemalan government has aid programs to alleviate child labor. According to the report on child labor and forced labor that the U.S. Department of Labor published in 2018, the Guatemalan government is sponsoring multiple programs that will alleviate child labor. One of these programs is the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education and Health Program (Mi Bono Seguro), which provides financial assistance to families with children as long as their children’s attendance to school is satisfactory. 
  10. Many nongovernment organizations are working to alleviate poverty for Guatemalan coffee workers. One organization, Pueblo a Pueblo, provides tools, training and support to the impoverished coffee farmers in Guatemala. One of the ways Pueblo a Pueblo does this is by teaching beekeeping to Guatemalan coffee farmers during the non-harvesting season of the year. The organization also assists Guatemalan coffee farmers impacted by the recent coffee rust epidemic. Watch this documentary for more information on Pueblo a Pueblo’s work. 

It can be easy for one to forget that a common food item, such as coffee, has a human cost in producing it. Stemming from the country’s civil war, child labor deeply links to the instability in Guatemala’s economy and government. When coffee farmers struggle to make ends meet, the danger of exploitation and violence increases for many poor coffee pickers and their children. These 10 facts about child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry show, however, that there are many people and organizations that are working to assist children and coffee workers in Guatemala. Through financial assistance, education and training in other agricultural disciplines, a better future awaits the children of Guatemala.  

 – YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Workers in Qatar

When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

tourism in Thailand
Thailand is a unique country that attracts over 32 million tourists each year. Tourism made up 20.6 percent of Thailand’s GDP in 2016 and supported about 6.1 percent of jobs. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, was the most visited city in 2017. It is clear the tourism in Thailand is impacting the country.

Thailand’s 2004 Tsunami Recovery

Tourism both aided and hindered Thailand in its post-tsunami state. With a high need for jobs and funds, many luxury hotels were able to reopen within months. Unfortunately, some groups such as migrant workers had a difficult time receiving aid, if they even received any at all.

The event was also a catalyst for the marginalization of those in a lower socioeconomic status as many were barred from returning to their homes in popular tourist areas such as the beach. It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 were either prevented from returning or an attempt was made to prevent them from returning.

The Marginalized in Thailand

The country’s social bias against migrant workers, immigrants and refugees is one of Thailand’s biggest criticisms. People in these marginalized groups are at a legal disadvantage compared to Thai citizens. Migrant workers are at the will of their employer, needing a “termination and employer transfer form” (in other words, permission from their current employer) in order to switch jobs. Research by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2010 found 33 to 50 percent of employers in the fishing, domestic and manufacturing sector used this law to their advantage to prevent losing migrant workers as employees.

There are also multiple reports of migrant workers being punished by law in what seem like uncertain situations. One example is the fourteen migrant workers who filed a complaint against their employer for exploitation, thus damaging the company’s reputation. This resulted in the employer filing a lawsuit against the workers with potential consequences being imprisonment and fines. 

Another unfortunate example occurred in 2015 when two migrant workers from Myanmar were sentenced to death for the murder of two tourists; the case was marred by police misconduct such as the mishandling of evidence and the alleged torture of the workers. While it is difficult to find an exact number of migrant workers convicted of a crime in Thailand, it is becoming increasingly clear to the world that this is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Prostitution was outlawed in the 1960s, but Thailand still has a growing trade revolving around paid sex. There is no way to get a real number on those traveling for sex tourism in Thailand, but NGOs estimated 70 percent of male travelers were visiting specifically for the sex industry in 2013. Prostitution does not have a social stigma in Thailand like in other countries and many Thais have accepted it as part of the culture, creating growth in the industry despite questionable legalities.

Medical Tourism in Thailand

Many tourists travel to Thailand because of the low-cost medical treatment. In 2006, about 200,000 tourists traveled to Thailand explicitly for medical treatment. By 2011, that number rose to half a million.

According to insurance company Thai Expat Club, Thailand was third in the world as the most likely destination for health tourism in 2016. Many medical tourists are saving at least half of what they would pay in the US. Add on recovery by the beach or in a resort and it is no wonder Thailand has become the medical hub of Asia.

Tourism’s Impact on the Environment

With tourism in Thailand increasing, trash increases as well. Unfortunately, Thailand’s infrastructure has been unable to keep up. A common assessment has been waste left over from beach parties. It is estimated that Ko Phangan Full Moon beach parties leave about 12 tons of debris per day behind which mostly goes into landfills or the ocean.

Many groups are currently trying to highlight this issue which will hopefully create a springboard for biodegradable materials and other environmentally conscious decisions. Some of the organizations partnering with Thailand to address the waste issues are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which collaborates with Thailand to protect environmental laws, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which works on conservation within the country.

Tourism in Thailand is drawing in great opportunities such as growing jobs, a developing medical field and cultural awareness. However, there are some points of contention with prostitution, the waste problem and an increasing awareness of the marginalized in Thai society. Curbing environmental problems and working toward a more equal society will create a stronger Thailand and, ultimately, a stronger world.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

remittances to Mexico
Remittances to Mexico in 2017 reached the highest level ever recorded. Remittances provide many Mexican families with necessary supplemental funding and are one of Mexico’s most important sources of income. The record-breaking number of remittance payments were driven by the depreciation of the peso and uncertainty surrounding the future of Mexican exports to the U.S.

Remittances: Important Source of Income for Mexico

Remittance payments are one of Mexico’s largest sources of foreign income, with manufactured exports, oil exports and foreign direct investment. Although manufactured exports remain Mexico’s top source of foreign income, remittances outpace oil. Mexico is the largest recipient of remittance payments sent from migrant workers in the U.S.

Mexico’s poorest states tend to receive the most in remittance payments. In 2017, Michoacán received the most remittances — $2.915 billion. Michoacán is the sixth poorest state in Mexico, with a poverty rate of 54.4 percent. Remittances to Jalisco totalled $2.797 billion and remittances to Guanajuato were $2.56 billion.

According to the Bank of México, 2017 remittances from Mexican workers living abroad totalled $28.77 billion — a 6.6 percent increase over the $26.99 billion sent back to Mexico in 2016. Remittance payments to Mexico mainly come from the U.S.

Record-High Remittances Spurred by Two Factors

The record-high number of remittances to Mexico in 2017 were due to two major forces — depreciation of the peso and President Trump’s proposed tax on remittances to Mexico.

The peso dropped dramatically in 2016 after the U.S. election of President Trump. The election created uncertainty surrounding Mexican exports to the U.S., also known as Mexico’s largest export market. In 2016, the U.S. consumed 81.03 percent of all Mexican exports.

Specifically, the election of President Trump created fear that Mexican exports to the U.S. would be stifled either by the United States’ withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or by the imposition of tariffs on Mexican exports. Remittances to Mexico traditionally increase when the peso is weak, as foreign currency will buy more pesos.

The ‘Wall’ of Cash

Additionally, President Trump has proposed taxing or halting U.S. remittances to Mexico to fund a border wall. Trump has threatened to prevent wire transfers between Mexican workers in the U.S. and their families back home until the Mexican government agrees to a one-time, $5-10 billion payment to fund the border wall.

Taxing remittances has also been considered an alternate measure to fund the wall. Economists argue that uncertainty surrounding the future of remittances to Mexico encouraged Mexicans working in the U.S. to send more money home in 2017.

– Katherine Parks
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Poverty in Shanghai
Shanghai sits on China’s central coast and is becoming a wildly popular tourist destination for visiting foreigners as well as Chinese nationals. With an amazing city skyline, incredible subway transportation and popular nightlife, it can be hard to imagine or see those living in poverty beneath the glamour. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Shanghai that are important to remember.

10 Facts About Poverty in Shanghai:

  1. Urban Poverty Eradicated
    The World Bank defines poverty as those living on less than $1.90 per day, and by those standards, China has eradicated all urban poverty. China’s ability to lift its citizens out of poverty is unprecedented but as great as this is, keeping an eye on the middle class will be important for economic health.
  2. Rural Poverty Eradicated by 2020
    Most concern for poverty is for those in the countryside, as people leave for the cities due to a lack of available jobs. The Chinese government’s goal is to eradicate poverty in all of China by 2020 and it has started this process by creating social reforms and looking at its redistributive policies.
  3. Growing Disposable Income
    These ten facts about poverty in Shanghai would be incomplete without the mention of the growing middle class. It is estimated that the middle class will grow to 75 percent of the population by 2022 and as of 2013 the average Shanghai family’s disposable income was ¥48,841 a year.
  4. Disneyland
    Some may see the wealth of Disneyland and compare it to the poverty in the villages nearby. However, it looks as if Disneyland take part in the place to eradicate poverty. Disneyland has helped create infrastructure for rural places by bringing subway lines and freeways to the Pudong district as well as creating jobs for those in northern Shanghai.
  5. Tearing Down the Old
    Small homes built from a past and poorer era are being torn down and residents are being encouraged to relocate. Relocated citizens are given a monthly housing stipend by the government, which unfortunately is not always enough for the interim of the construction.
  6. Building the New
    Wealth seems to be rising as from 2000 to 2008 luxury home construction saw an increase by ten versus smaller homes decreasing by 60 percent. While this has occurred naturally in the past, there is a new focus on building new homes and forcing relocation.
  7. Migrant Workers
    Approximately 39 percent of Shanghai’s residents are estimated to be long-term migrant workers. Migrant workers are people who have moved from more rural communities into the cities looking for work. Their income is unsure as is their housing and many migrant workers are susceptible to poverty.
  8. Migration Reversal
    The Chinese government is causing a migration reversal with the end goal of eradicating poverty. The government is forcing migrant workers out of the city and back to their hometowns by shutting down businesses and houses based on health coeds. Some feel it is unfair to have this forced lifestyle imposed on them, while others think this process would have occurred naturally because the cities are becoming too expensive.
  9. Urbanization
    Part of the migration reversal is a focus on urbanization–turning China into various urban centers. The government is becoming more focused on creating government-subsidized homes for those in rural areas. This relocation is estimated to see of 9.8 million people moved across China from 2016 to 2020.
  10. Disparity
    These 10 facts about poverty in Shanghai all come down to growth and disparity. There is still a huge disparity between wealth and poverty, luxury and necessities, opulence and simplicity, but things are improving. While the methods may not be agreed upon, Shanghai is a beacon for the changing China.

Natasha Komen

Flickr

How to Help People in Qatar

Qatar is a nation of extreme economic stratification between rich and poor. An oil rich gulf state, Qatar’s economy is booming, with its GDP reaching a soaring $329.2 billion in 2016 – making Qatar the wealthiest Arab state. Despite this title, there are still unfortunately a large number of people living in poverty here. In this climate of extreme inequality, the question of how to help people in Qatar remains of vital importance.

This economic growth is coupled with a massive population spike, due to the influx of migrant workers needed to sustain the economic growth of the country. Migrant workers are estimated to comprise about 90 percent of the Qatari population, with nearly 60 percent living in what the Qatari monarchy officially calls “labour camps.”

This influx of migrant workers has been further exacerbated by the construction for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have long condemned the working conditions of migrant workers in Qatar. Under the kafala labor sponsorship system, workers are dependent on their employers for their visas, living accommodation and even permission to enter or exit the country. Amnesty International has deemed labor conditions as “squalid and cramped,” while the International Labor Organization is launching investigations into the labor camps and systems surrounding the construction of World Cup infrastructure.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy, ruled by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. As an official ally of the U.S., diplomats from the U.S. have unique access to the small faction of the Qatari population that maintains control over the political and economic realities that the poor face. It is crucial that the U.S. uses its influence to advocate for the outrageous treatment of migrant workers, on whose backs the immense wealth and economic growth of Qatar is built.

USAID has already begun to answer the question of how to help people in Qatar, and are still working to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding Cooperation to Enhance Global Food Security, signed in 2011. Dr. Rajiv Shah, then the administrator of USAID, signed the MOU, saying, “Both the United States and Qatar see food security as a development issue that must be addressed comprehensively and creatively.”

It is critical to the health and well-being of the impoverished Qatari workers that these goals be pursued. Moreover, resources must continue to flow to organizations such as USAID, which work to pressure the Qatari monarchy to provide a social safety net and adequate human rights for its subjects.

Jeffery Harrell
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Money Transfers
One in seven people worldwide gets labeled as a migrant worker. Migrant workers are individuals who move from their home country to a different one for work purposes. These workers often face difficulty when it comes to sending money home to their families. They often have to take time-consuming or costly routes to accomplish this. With the help of mobile money transfers, migrant workers now have an easy and cost-efficient way to transfer their earnings.

Limited Storage Options

Before mobile transfers, workers had limited options on how to send their money home. They could take the money themselves, but this required them to take large amounts of time off work and spend money on transportation. Another method used was to send money home with a third-party. However, if there is no nearby agency, workers might end up relying on an unregulated corporation. Using these services can be costly and risky. Even worse is that companies can charge a high fee depending on the amount getting transferred.

Bank accounts are also unsuitable for migrant workers. Most migrant workers are employed in rural farm areas while banks operate in more populated places like cities or towns. Banks can also charge high fees that low-income workers cannot pay. In fact, 42% of the world’s farmers are unbanked.

Mobile money transfers provide an easy and quick way to send money home at a cheaper rate than previous systems. Money transfers can be done at any time of the day and take only seconds. Moreover, unlike banking apps, they are not limited to smartphones and can be done on any mobile device.

Xpress Money & TerraPay

Xpress Money is one money transferring company that recently partnered with TerraPay, a mobile payment switch. Originally used to send money directly through 200,000 agent locations in 165 different countries, Xpress now looks to expand with mobile transfers. TerraPay connects money transfer services with banks, payment card issuers and mobile wallet systems through its technological services. These services enable migrant workers across the world to send money home instantly.

By providing poor migrant workers with a safe, cheap and easy way to manage their money, they are getting introduced into the formal financial sector. Now, these migrants can begin to have savings and dictate where they wish to spend their money. Having control over their earnings can give these workers the capability and means to rise out of poverty.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar

The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics disclosed on June 6, 2016 that 1.4 million people, nearly 60% of Qatar’s population, live in what the Qatari government officially labels as “labor camps.”

Migrants from poorer countries have moved to Qatar in recent years to develop its infrastructure for tourism projects, including preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

However, migrant workers continue to live a life of poverty in Qatar, with many human rights groups like Amnesty International condemning Qatar for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its very large migrant workforce.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers are also not paid for several months at a time, which puts significant emotional and financial pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts.

Recently, 13 people died in a fire that broke out in a labor camp for migrants working on a waterfront tourism project in southwest Qatar. The fire highlights how Qatar has treated migrant workers by providing poor living conditions for them.

The government responded to criticism by building new housing complexes for workers, including a city south of Doha. This new city, known as “Labour City,” will include cinemas, shops and a cricket stadium for migrant workers.

Outside of the government, various organizations have also assisted migrant workers to overcome their life of poverty in Qatar. One such organization is Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

On June 8, ROTA launched its Ramadan Project 2016, bringing together over 100 local volunteers to pack and distribute bulk groceries to more than 200 families in need across Qatar.

ROTA volunteers packaged food parcels containing items such as flour, cooking oil, milk powder and lentils that were later distributed before the start of Ramadan. The program also provided beneficiary families with shopping vouchers to purchase other products.

ROTA volunteers, numbering 300, partook in several community service activities set to take place over the month, including the installation of computer labs for migrants working on construction projects.

Despite living a life of poverty in Qatar, migrant workers are slowly overcoming hardships through additional assistance by the government and various organizations.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Flickr

WorldRemitThe expanding remittance market is one indicator of our increasingly globalized world, and with it comes the need for easy and convenient overseas money transfers.

Ismail Ahmed experienced this necessity firsthand. While studying in London, Ahmed faced a time-consuming process each time he needed to send money to family in his native Somalia. To facilitate this process, he founded WorldRemit.

“WorldRemit,” Ahmed explains, “is an online service that lets people send money to friends and family living abroad, using a computer, smartphone, or tablet.”

According to his website, money transfers that would have taken hours reduces to three simple stages: selecting a country, adding recipient details, and sending the money. Senders and recipients are notified by email or SMS when a transfer has been received.

Money can be sent to bank accounts or for cash pick-up as well as through Mobile Money service and mobile airtime top-up.

According to Debbi McCullough from The Guardian, the increased rate of global migration places a higher demand on more rapid, cost-efficient transfer services like WorldRemit.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that one in seven people are either an international or internal migrant. Remittance flows to developing countries are projected to increase 8.4 percent in 2016 (reaching up to $516 billion in total).

Despite these increases, remittance fees in some countries still remain as high as 29 percent. Furthermore, the process of “[traveling] to an agent location, [standing] in line, [filling] out forms” and more creates a sense of unnecessary tedium, says McCullough.

While online transactions raise the question of security, Ahmed assures that “[sending] money through WorldRemit is extremely safe.” Partner companies are held up to high security and data protection standards.

Though most of its main offices are based in London, WorldRemit continues to expand. In early 2015, it opened up its first U.S. office in Denver, Colorado.

For those who need to send money, WorldRemit is currently available for use in 50 countries. Recipients live in up to 120 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North America and South America.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: Aldo Svaldi, Debbi McCullough, WorldRemit, The World Bank
Photo: Google Images

chinese_migrant_workers
Every year, around the Chinese New Year, China experiences the world’s largest human migration. About 700 million people gather at boat landings, train stations and airports to return home; during this holiday period, 2,265 trains per day will carry this plethora of people across the country.

A majority of these travelers are in fact migrant workers who are returning home after working in China’s crowded but economically thriving cities. For many of these laborers, this will be their only visit home before they have to return to their place of employment for the rest of the year.

Traditionally, life for these millions of migratory workers has not been easy. While many leave their rural hometowns for greater economic opportunities in China’s booming metropolises, they often find more than they bargain for.

A study conducted by Cheng Yu at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou surveyed the mental health of 807 migrant workers from Shenzhen and also saw Cheng discussing personal experiences with 60 of them. The study found that 58.8 percent of participants suffered from depression. Another 17 percent experienced anxiety, while around 4.6 percent had considered suicide.

The issue of mental health among Chinese migrant workers became widely apparent in 2010 after a series of suicides at a Foxconn manufacturing facility in Shenzhen. The company had assembled components for Apple products.

For migrant workers who must transition from rural life to city living without the support of their families, the chance of developing mental illnesses is much greater. They also face greater inequality through China’s hukou system.

The hukou essentially serves as a domestic passport which distinguishes between those of rural backgrounds and urban backgrounds. Unfortunately, migrant workers have to pay more for social services such as healthcare and education, which they could expect for little expense in their rural hometowns. They will frequently experience wage disparities and discrimination.

In 2008, a study found that urban workers earned around 1,000 yuan per month, while their migrant counterparts earned only 850 yuan. Most were expected to work around 11 hours per day for 26 days a month. Another study found that migrant laborers worked 50 percent more hours than their urban counterparts, yet in turn received 60 percent less in pay.

In order to improve their working conditions, laborers have recently taken to the streets in protest. In 2011 the country experienced 185 labor protests and things have only escalated since then: last year, 1,300 labor protests took place.

Even though the Chinese government guarantees workers’ rights under a 1995 labor agreement, workers must seek approval for strikes through the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, a government entity. If they don’t coordinate through the federation, they can face arrest.

Yet these arrests are usually only based on disorderly conduct and not for the actual strikes themselves. Wu Gaijin, a worker representative from Shenzhen, was detained for an entire year without a conviction. The government charged him with disrupting traffic.

However, life for laborers has been gradually improving. China has recently worked towards loosening restrictions on the hukou system in an attempt to lessen the disparity between urban and rural workers. Furthermore, individuals such as Cheng have advocated for required mental health testing at work facilities and for providing employees with a mental health support line to mitigate suicides and depression.

As China grows larger and its cities expand, changes such as these will have to be made in order to make its labor force sustainable and healthy.

Andrew Logan

Sources: Business Insider, CNN 1, CNN 2, ILO, NPR, PBS
Photo: CNN