“I send money back to Myanmar for my daughter’s education, food and healthcare. I have to save as much as possible, so if she gets sick, I can send more money,” said Myint, a Myanmar domestic worker in Thailand.
Remittances sent home by migrant workers are critical and sometimes the sole source of income for their family members. They are a vital lifeline for millions of families, allowing them to meet basic household needs, access essential goods and services, send their children to school or set up their businesses.
On 16th June, we celebrate the International Day of Family Remittances and International Domestic Workers Day. On this day, we recognize the contributions of 230 million migrant workers worldwide women and men, who send money home to over 800 million family members. It is a day to recognize the contributions of domestic workers, who are an integral part of the global labour force, and advocate for the recognition of their work.
To celebrate both days, we bring the stories of three Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand who have been providing for their families back home through domestic work.
Min, a 42-year-old domestic worker in Thailand, is among those who regularly send remittances back home. Domestic workers like Min clean, cook, care for children, look after elderly family members and perform other essential tasks for their employers to keep the household running smoothly. She has been working in Thailand for over 20 years. She used to work in a factory but switched to domestic work for a higher income.
“I had a friend who was a domestic worker in Bangkok. She persuaded me to become a domestic worker, too, because I would be able to save more,” said Min. “As a live-in domestic worker, I do not have to pay for my food and accommodation. My employer also assists me in renewing my work permit. Since I do not have a lot of expenses, I can save and send more money to my family back home,” she added.
Domestic work is a growing sector vital in providing care and welfare for many households. In Thailand, domestic work is increasingly undertaken by migrant workers, with 107,357 migrants employed in the sector as of 2020.
At 46 years old, Pan has been working as a domestic worker since she migrated to Thailand 13 years ago. After working in Thailand for a few years, Pan returned to Myanmar to start her own business. However, she was not earning enough, so she returned to Thailand to resume work as a domestic worker. “The money I send back to Myanmar supports my whole family. Since my income is stable, I am also able to invest and support a small business managed by my sister-in-law,” Pan shared. Pan’s story highlights the outsized positive impacts of remittances on their home communities.
Min and Pan are among the migrant domestic workers who joined the professional cleaning training supported by IOM and Thailand Professional Qualification Institute (TPQI) under the PROMISE programme. By receiving skills training and certification based on national competency standards, Min and Pan are happy that they have gained professional skills and certification.
“The training has helped me gain professional skills that would enable me to perform better on the job and provide better service. My current employer is very glad to know I am now trained and certified. I also feel happier knowing I have improved skills,” said Min.
Another participant in the training, Myint, is hopeful that the skills training and certification can increase her chances of working in another industry. “If I decide to work in the hospitality sector in the future, I feel confident that I am skilled to work as a housekeeper,” Myint said.
While thinking about her future, Myint is still content with her job as a domestic worker, as it has allowed her to provide for her family in Myanmar for more than 20 years. “I have been sending money back to Myanmar for my daughter’s education, food and healthcare. If my daughter gets sick, I can send her more money,” Myint added.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, migrant workers in Thailand sent USD 2.8 billion in formal or regulated remittances per annum to Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam, although the real figures were likely higher as unofficial remittance channels are common. In Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar alone, 2.8 million migrant family members received remittances, according to the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). Remittances not only support families but also contribute to economic development more broadly.
Today and every day, we celebrate migrant workers like Min, Pan and Myint, who have been great providers for their families back home through domestic work and remittances and have therefore supported the development of their communities back home.
*Note: Min, Pan and Myint’s names have been changed to protect their identities.
This initiative is implemented under IOM’s Poverty Reduction through Safe Migration, Skills Development and Enhanced Job Placement (PROMISE) programme. PROMISE is a regional initiative that aims to support migrant workers in accessing skills development, leading to gainful employment and to promote enhanced protection of migrant workers in collaboration with key stakeholders from public and private sectors.