Debt increases risk. Improving financial stability can reduce risk and lead to safer migration.

The Role of Debt in the Lives of International Labor Migrants and Families from India

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    India has the largest emigrant population in the world with 18 million people living abroad. A large percentage of India’s international labor migrants reside in the GCC countries (28% in 2020.)

    Migration to the GCC countries from India is typically temporary and is characterized by the predominance of unskilled laborers. Though frequently pursued as a pathway to improved economic condition, international migration is a costly venture, and it is a cost that is primarily born by migrants rather than employers. Very often, migration is financed by debt.

    There are large gaps in evidence on how indebtedness shapes migration decision-making, work-related choices and experiences, remittance-sending behavior, and experiences upon return to India. As part of an effort to fill this gap and generate new and actionable learnings, GFEMS funded Population Council to conduct research on patterns of household indebtedness among international migrant households; the role of debt in migration-related decisions; and what interventions hold the most potential for reducing financial vulnerabilities.

    The brief concludes with recommendations to various stakeholders including the national and local level government of India as well as donors and civil society organizations (CSOs) committed to reducing exploitative migration and labor practices.

    To learn more, download the brief.

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