Migrants feel the pressure of inflation twice over — at home and abroad
By AYA BATRAWY, TRISHA AHMED, CLAUDIA TORRENS and MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — In almost every corner of the globe, people are spending more on food and fuel, rent and transportation.
But inflation does not affect people in the same way. For migrants whose parents depend on the money they send home, rising prices pinch families twice: at home and abroad.
Migrant workers who send money to relatives abroad often save less because they are forced to spend more as prices rise. For some, the only option is to work harder, to work weekends and nights, to take on a second job. For others, it means cutting back on once-essentials like meat and fruit so they can send what’s left of their savings to family back home, some of whom are struggling with hunger or conflict.
“I used to save something, about $200 a week. Now I can barely save $100 a week. I live hand to mouth,” said Carlos Huerta, a 45-year-old Mexican working as a driver in New York Town.
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Across the Atlantic, 49-year-old Lissa Jataas sends about 200 euros ($195) from her office job in Cyprus to her family in the Philippines every month. To save money, she looks for cheaper food at the grocery store and buys clothes at a charity store.
“It’s about being resilient,” she said.
Economies reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change have been hit again by Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has sent food and energy prices skyrocketing.
Those costs pushed an additional 71 million people around the world into poverty in the weeks following the February invasion, which halted critical shipments of grain from the Black Sea region, according to the United Nations Development Program. Development.
When food and fuel prices skyrocket, the money people can send to loved ones doesn’t go as far as it used to. The International Monetary Fund estimates that global inflation will peak at 9.5% this year, but in developing countries it is much higher.
“The poorest people spend far more of their income on food and energy,” said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at poverty organization Oxfam.
He said inflation is “spilling fire” on inequality: “It’s almost as if the poor are a bit like a sponge meant to absorb economic shock.”
Mahdi Warsama, 52, came to the United States from Somalia as a teenager. A US citizen who works for the nonprofit Somali Parents Autism Network, he sends between $3,000 and $300 a month to relatives in Somalia, sometimes borrowing money to send what relatives need for medical bills and other emergencies.
Warsama, who divides his time between Christopher Columbus, Ohioand Minneapolis, estimates he sent $1,500 last month to help his loved ones pay for necessities like food and water for themselves and their livestock.
Thousands of people have died in a drought gripping Somalia, with the UN saying half a million children are at risk of dying from malnutrition or near-starvation.
“Just like we have inflation in the United States, in Somalia it’s even worse,” he said, adding that sacks of rice, sugar and flour that once cost $50 now cost $50. $70.
He’s changed his spending habits, is looking for ways to earn more, and is watching for interest rate hikes and inflation, something he’s never done before this year.
“I’m more determined to work harder and earn more money,” Warsama said. “I have to be more aware of the fact that I have to help my loved ones at home.”
In New York, Huerta has lived apart from his wife and children for nearly 20 years, working jobs ranging from washing dishes to driving executives — whatever it takes to earn enough.
He said he sends about $200 a week to his wife and mother in Puebla, Mexico. Huerta also learned to paint houses, so if there’s no demand for a driver, he can still earn around $150 a day.
With incomes around $3,600 a month and rising rent for his apartment in Queens, Huerta said he’s replaced steak with chicken, eaten less fruit as prices rise in arrow and that he had canceled his cable.
For Jaatas, who has lived in Cyprus for nearly two decades, the six parents she supports in the Philippines are not only facing rising costs, but also reeling from the aftermath of a typhoon that cut off water and electricity.
“We really love helping our family back home, no matter what disasters or shortcomings happen,” she said.
According to an analysis by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Philippines is the most food insecure country in emerging Asia due to its reliance on imported food.
Ester Beatty, who leads a chapter of the European Filipino Diaspora Network in Cyprus, said it was common for Filipinos to work Sundays in the Mediterranean island nation as they seek extra income to support loved ones who have struggling to get basic items like rice and sugar.
In developing countries, low-income families are estimated to spend more than 40% of their household income on food, even with government subsidies, said Peter Ceretti, an analyst with food security consultancy at Eurasia Group risk.
Ali el-Sayyed Mohammed, 26, arrived in the United Arab Emirates in February after several years looking for work in Egypt.
“Life is expensive and salaries don’t cover enough, so I made the decision to leave,” he said. “It was a tough decision at first, but the situation left me with no choice.”
With his father deceased, Mohammed is the breadwinner, supporting three sisters and his mother. He hails from Beheira, a province in the Nile Delta that has seen many of its young men leave, sometimes embarking on deadly journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in search of work in Europe.
With around $1,000 saved up, Mohammed came to Dubai and crashed with friends until he landed a job at one of the city’s most popular Egyptian restaurants, Hadoota Masreya.
However, the rising cost of living in Egypt has made it even more difficult for her to save enough to help her sister marry next year or secure her own future. Inflation in Egypt soared to around 16% as the value of the currency plummeted, making the lives of millions of Egyptians living in poverty even more difficult.
“I have a lot of employees whose families depend on the income they get from the restaurant and a lot of their income is sent home so people can live there,” said Mohamed Younis, director of Hadoota. Masreya.
The restaurant recently increased salaries to meet the rising cost of living, he said.
Younis said an increasing number of Egyptian men are looking for work. Younis runs a YouTube channel called “Restaurant Clinic” which gives tips in Arabic for success in the restaurant business. He warns that moving to the UAE is risky as finding a job takes time and money.
back in MinnesotaMohamed Aden, a 36-year-old school bus driver, says he moonlights as an Uber driver to support his wife, children and siblings who fled Somalia for Kenya due to violence in his native country.
Without a work permit in Kenya, his family depends on the money he sends back – nearly half of his $2,000 monthly income.
But he pays more for petrol and food prices are higher in Kenya, so the money doesn’t go that far.
Aden tries to visit Kenya every December during the cold Minnesota winter.
“This year I can’t because of inflation,” he said. “I’m the only one here, feeding the family…but I’ll be back when I have the money.”
Ahmed reported from Minneapolis, Torrens from New York and Hadjicostis from Nicosia, Cyprus.
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