International migration plays a significant role in poverty reduction, a recent study by the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) found.
The policy advocacy institution at Dhaka University came to the conclusion after conducting an exhaustive household survey in 17 districts of the country, representing all seven divisions, over the past one and a half years. Some 5,084 individuals were interviewed.
The survey found that only 13 percent of the households where at least one member had taken up international migration live below the poverty line. As for non-migrant households, the figure stood at 40 percent.
The annual income of migrant households stood at Tk 1.43 lakhs in contrast to Tk 90,000 for non-migrant ones.
Furthermore, the study found that the duration of migration had an inverse relationship with poverty rate.
Only 8 percent of the households with 10 or more years of migration experience were under poverty line, with the poverty rates found to be lower in case of male-headed international migrant households than females.
The households too enjoyed a better living standard compared to non-migrant ones, said Tasneem Siddiqui, founder chair of the RMMRU, at a dissemination workshop at the capital's Brac Centre Inn to reveal the findings of the study.
The overseas migrants' families perform better in some other indices as well such as ownership of homestead and agricultural land, education expenses, health and others.
They were found to contribute more to agricultural development by using improved seeds, adequate fertilisers, regular irrigation and insecticides, according to the RMMRU.
The investment in agricultural equipment by the migrant households was 13 percent more than the non-migrant ones, the study found. These included irrigation pumps, power tillers, tractors, paddy-separator and portable rice processing machines.
Women migrants though invested less than male migrants in agriculture development.
Migrant households fared much better both in terms of savings and investment: 34.07 percent have savings accounts against 19.11 percent among non-migrant households.
Some 22 percent of the migrant households are subscribers of deposit pension schemes as opposed to 15 percent for non-migrant households.
International migrants also created jobs for non-migrants of their villages by providing a section of their land for share-cropping.
To manage poultry farms, livestock and small-scale enterprises, they also hired workers from non-migrant families.
Another important observation of the study was that wage rates were higher in areas where there are high concentrations of migrant households.
It also found that migrant households contributed more to the development of local markets by way of their larger spending capacity: they spend 24 percent more on food and other consumables.
“While the cost of international migration is much higher than the cost of internal migration, so are the returns,” said Zahid Hussain, lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office.
Although far from being perfect, private market makers have done relatively well in facilitating international migration, he said, while calling for policy support to make migration more inclusive.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, and Binayak Sen, research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, were, among others, present at the workshop.