Why Work Overseas?
There is a word from the Malay world that captures the spirit of going away from home in its general, but deep essence. It is called merantau, often used by the Minangkabau people in Sumatera, but in common use among other Malays and Indonesians in general. This word means to leave one's home village or country. It could imply that the move is only temporary, or that it could be for a very long time, or even it could be permanent. However, it is also implied that perantau (i.e. the one who goes 'merantau') will maintain some sort of connection with the home village or country. There are many reasons why people go 'merantau', or in general, work and live abroad. Economic necessity, we believe, is a very important factor. However, we have to also remember that the migration industry, especially in this globalization era, is very complex and immense as it displays a great variety on many different levels regarding the supply-demand relationship of one part of the world and another part of the world. Socio-cultural factor is also playing a role here.
Millions of the world's citizens have left their home country to work overseas, and more leave each day. Some of them are lucky enough to become so-called 'expatriates' with professional skills under their belts. Some even received Master's or Ph.D degree already. However, most have only modest skills with fearsome motivation. The push factor for many of the latter group, unfortunately and undeniably, is poverty. Difficulties to find a work at home countries have pushed migrants to work overseas. The wages they earn in the host countries and send back home contribute greatly to individual households as well as to regional and national economies. According to a study released today by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), migrants working in industrialized countries sent more than US$300 billion to developing nations in 2006. By sending the earned wages back to their home country as remittances, migrant workers provide direct benefits that assist in the development of both host and domain countries, and help reduce gaps in the level of economic development. Migrant workers are indeed the unsung heroes.
Note that there are many problems or issues surrounding the topic of migrant worker. For example, some workers go legally while others risk their life to seek a better living without following legal procedure. Next, globalization has its two-sided roles play in this game. Labor mobility has increasingly become a component of integration as barriers are being removed to facilitate freer movement of capital, goods, services and technology. However, in the name of globalization and free trade, crises like the Asian financial crisis of 1997 have forced plant closures. Rich, multinational companies decided to relocate their factories to countries where production costs, including labor wages, are even cheaper. Thus, laid-off labors have been forced to look for new jobs in other parts of their home country or overseas.
But, what exactly do migrant workers want to have that they decide to go abroad?
A research by an Indonesian NGO called the Institute for Ecosoc Rights in 2005 that was done on 92 Indonesian migrants working in Singapore show that motivation of most migrant workers is to get money to buy land (13.7%), to renovate their houses (19.5%) and to buy diverse home equipments mostly furniture and electronic products (10%). Pretty simple, we would say. Institute for Ecosoc Rights analyze that there is a tendency for migrant workers to pursue prestige and perceived success among villagers as shown by having a plot of land and a good looking, well-equipped house. Now, the problem is how the migrant workers spend their wages. Why then the data show that many of them are still poor and then go again to work overseas? Maybe something is wrong because the money doesn't do much in improving their and their families' livelihood. Why is it so difficult to break the cycle of poverty? But how could some of them succeed and reach their dreams? What are their stories? Learn more about our unsung heroes. As you go through this website, you will find the answers for those questions.