International migration and over-indebtedness: the case of Filipino workers in Italy
Remittances from international migrants are a crucial component of the economy of the Philippines and a vital resource for many households, increasingly so as the prices of basic commodities skyrocket as a result of the current global financial crisis. The latter also affects Italy, a main destination for Filipino migrants, with declining demand for workers in domestic and care services where migrants concentrate. The upshot is growing levels of indebtedness among Filipino migrants. Building on the long-standing work of the Filipino Women’s Council, a grassroots migrants’ association, this paper explores the various dimensions of such indebtedness and its root causes. It analyses how limited access to formal financial institutions, responsibilities towards relatives and the combined impacts of economic pressures in both the Philippines and Italy affect migrants’ incomes and the need to borrow. While indebtedness has long been overlooked in debates on migration and development, there is growing evidence that it is a rapidly emerging problem that requires further investigation and appropriate, supportive policies.