Last year, after Western Union had given education grants
to a number of domestic workers in Singapore for family members, I
asked around casually among a number of domestic workers which service
they used for transfering money to their families. Quite a few used
Western Union. I was told that, though there were cheaper remittance
services, WU's distribution outlets made it more convenient for their
families to get the money they were sent, plus it was transferred in
minutes. This overrode the consideration that WU charged about $5.00
more than some of the available alternatives (they charged $10).
It is always good for workers to cut down what they have to pay out for
services and keep more of their earnings for themselves or their
families: definitely, it would be good to do this. I just don't get any
sense here of a groundswell of feeling among domestic workers of
opposition to remittance company's charges. That makes it different
from their feelings about the burden of debt that they start a new job
with, and carry for months -seven to ten, often. When you've had to pay
out a couple of thousand dollars to get a job, paying $15 a month for a
service that is bound to cost something probably seems a secondary
So yes, there's an issue here, but I hope we'll keep in mind how
workers feel about the relative weight of these issues in different
countries. I'd have to say, I don't see migrant workers here getting
very excited about it before they've got a lot of other problems sorted
I should say that this is a personal view; TWC2 has not discussed the
issue through and taken a policy decision on it. I might find that some
members would take a very different view, but it really hasn't loomed
as an issue.
I should also add that, in the past, we have approached remittance
companies for support for activities, and Western Union three times
gave financial support to our International Migrants' Day events.
Maybe this would be considered wrong elsewhere; we certainly did not
think so at the time, and we did not receive a single criticism from
any quarter, though thousands took part in the events in question.