GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
What do Migrants and Their Spouses Back Home Talk About? An Empirical Study of Migrants in Qatar from Southern India
Paper Proposal Text :
How aware are migrants about conditions at home and how well do their family members know the socio-economic circumstances that their family member abroad faces? This paper presents results obtained through surveys administered to married male migrants from the Indian state of Kerala to Qatar as well as their spouses who are residing in Kerala. The survey captures the demographic composition and aspects of employment of the Keralite migrant population in Qatar as well as those of their households in Kerala. The results highlight important trends in remittances sent by migrants from Qatar, expenditures, income and loans taken out by migrants as well as their households in Kerala. The survey also focused on the migrants’ and their households’ satisfaction with life and financial matters in addition to trying to understand the financial decision-making process of the average migrant and his household. Interviews with couples were administered in either a private module or a joint module. In the private module, the migrant and spouse are interviewed separately but at the same time so that their responses remain unknown to the other. In the joint module, both the migrant and his spouse respond jointly to the question posed by the interviewer. This method has been adopted in administering the survey in order to ensure sensitize the research to the distortion, if any, in the perception of money matters, life satisfaction, finances and financial goals between migrants and their spouses.
This survey effort yielded a sample size of 234 migrants from Kerala, India working in Qatar. Of these, 48.29% practice Hinduism, 37.18% practice Islam and the remaining 14.53% practice Christianity. The average migrant to in Qatar from Kerala is 40 years of age while that of his spouse is 32.8 years. Approximately 15 percent of the spouses live in with their parents while 72.7% stayed with their parents-in-law.
On average, a migrant’s income is about USD 552.3 per month (with a median of USD 493) and his monthly expenses are USD 167.8 per month. In order to earn this income, this migrant has to work approximately 10.5 hours per day and 6 days a week. When the sample is limited to private sessions, spouses who are interviewed separately from their husbands, though at the same time, tend to under-report the income and expenses of the migrant. The migrant’s own account of his monthly income and expenses averaged USD 532 and USD 170 respectively, whereas the spouse account of their husband’s income and expenses in Qatar is USD 391 and USD 67. About 80.7% of the wives are homemakers. Out of the 39 spouses that were employed, the mean monthly income is 142.6 USD.
An overwhelming majority of the migrants remitted money either to their spouses (54.7%) or to their own bank accounts (35.9%). The average amount remitted per month as reported by the migrant was 13 to 22 percent higher than those reported as received by the spouse, a difference that is statistically significant. This difference was reflected in both private and joint interviews with the subjects. The lower amount reported by the spouse may better approximate the actual amount of remittances sent and received as they are likely to be more sensitive to the sums received since they have to manage these transfers to meet various household expenses.
51.7% of the migrants reported that they have received loan(s) in the past 12 months. However only 23.9% of the spouses reported that their husbands had received loans during the said period. 52.4% of the migrants stated that they took out the loan to purchase or construct a house in Kerala. Other prominent reasons for taking out loans included covering the placement fee paid to the recruitment agency to come to Qatar, to buy land in Kerala and to cover marriage expenses among others. 55. 6% of the spouses in Kerala said that they or their household had received loans in the past 12 months. Interestingly, only 2.6% of the migrants in Qatar reported that their households in Kerala had received loans during the said period. 46.6% of the loans received by the households were used to purchase or construct a house. Other prominent reasons for households taking out loans include expenditures for wedding/ dowry, education, to cover costs incurred at the recruitment agency that helped their family member migrate to Qatar or to buy land in Kerala among others.
Out of 121 migrants that indicated that they are receiving loans, 105 migrants reported how much they are paying off monthly in loan installments. The median monthly loan installment is USD 110 in contrast to a mean of USD 140. When comparing the mean monthly loan installment between the migrants in private session and public session, we find that an average migrant in the public session is paying off a significantly higher monthly loan installment by about USD 106.3. The vast majority of spouses were unaware of the monthly loan installments paid.
84.62% of the migrants in Doha responded that they had a bank account in Kerala. However, only 64.1% of the spouses in Kerala were aware that their husbands had bank accounts in Kerala while 4.27% responded that they lacked knowledge about their husbands’ banks accounts. 40% of the migrants reported that they have bank accounts in Qatar while only 22% of the spouses were aware that their husbands had bank accounts in Qatar. An overwhelming preference to remit their money to Kerala has prevented almost 50% of the migrants from applying for a bank account in Qatar. 21.4% of the migrants reported that they did not have a bank account in Qatar because they were unable to meet minimum salary and/ or other qualifying requirements to apply for it.
The results from this paper help highlight the extent to which migrants and their families back home share information about each other’s socio-economic condition. We are unaware of any other study that takes this novel approach by separately interviewing the couple simultaneously to order to ascertain the degree of asymmetric information.