So the current account is always overdrawn or in the red by the end of the month. And you’re a lousy saver to boot. Perhaps you need a pep talk! For it seems a simple but motivational pep talk can lead to a better savings habit. At least that would appear to be the case in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.
According to Phys.org, a leading web-based science, research and technology news service, a University of Michigan study found migrant workers would save more money and make better financial decisions with their spouses if they attended a motivational talk about personal finance.
Published recently in the Journal of Development Economics, the study involved 200 migrant men from India who were working in Doha, Qatar. The men, who came from different age groups, education levels and professions, were divided into a control group and a treatment group.
The treatment group was given a motivational pep talk about saving by financial guru K.V. Shamsudheen, a popular motivational speaker who runs his own radio show in the United Arab Emirates. He discussed why migrants needed to save more money and make joint decisions with their spouses.
A follow-up survey was conducted more than a year later to see if the workers were doing better with saving, sending money home and communicating with their wives.
And they were! The migrants reported a 30% increase in making financial decisions together with their wives. Their wives also reported a significant increase in seeking out financial education for themselves.
The money migrant workers send home to their families is usually referred to as remittances – and the total generated each year across the world is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.
The World Bank said last year remittance flows to developing countries were expected to reach $414 billion in 2013 (up 6.3% over 2012), and $540 billion by 2016. Worldwide, remittance flows were expected to reach $550 billion in 2013 and over $700 billion by 2016.
Remittances, says the World Bank, are now nearly three times the size of official development assistance and larger than private debt and portfolio equity flows to developing countries. They exceed the foreign exchange reserves in at least 14 developing countries, and are equivalent to at least half of the level of reserves in more than over 26 developing countries.
As many emerging markets are facing a weakening balance of payments, the importance of remittances as a source of foreign currency earnings is increasing. This is particularly true in the case of South Asia.
Top recipients of officially recorded remittances for 2013 were India ($71 billion), China ($60 billion), the Philippines ($26 billion), Mexico ($22 billion), Nigeria ($21 billion), and Egypt ($20 billion). Other large recipients included Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Ukraine. As a percentage of GDP, however, the top recipients of remittances, in 2012, were Tajikistan (48%), Kyrgyz Republic (31%), Lesotho and Nepal (25% each), and Moldova (24%).
The number of workers travelling abroad every year for work is reckoned to exceed more than 200 million. Typically, they are employed as construction workers, maids and in other low-waged jobs. For further information, download the World Bank report, “Migration and Remittance Flows: Recent Trends and Outlook, 2013-2016”, here.