Fintech: changing lives and promoting inclusion across the globe
We live and work in a global economy. There are 164 million migrant workers in the world today, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and many of them leave home in search of income – not by choice, but by necessity.
In some cases, jobs are unavailable where they live and in others, the jobs that are available don’t pay enough. They usually work long hours to earn income that will put food on the table and give their families better lives.
Remittances drive local economies
An estimated 800 million people worldwide are directly supported by remittances, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), from loved ones abroad. Like many countries, the Philippines has come to rely on remittances as a vital part of their economy. Facing a lack of sustained economic development, political instability, a growing population with double-digit unemployment levels and low wages, 2.3 million Filipinos, work abroad.
Migrant Filipino workers send back $31 billion to their country each year, which accounts for approximately 10% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product. In fact, it’s a government requirement that 80% of every Filipino worker’s base salary flow back into the country. For a good number of those workers, the cruise industry has been an attractive option. Today, Filipinos make up one-third of cruise ship employees.
Challenges of working abroad
Working far from home can be hard. Migrant workers face numerous challenges that go beyond language barriers and acclimating to a new environment. Missing your loved ones, constant travel and long work days are draining for anyone – but when you add managing your finances and taking care of family back home to the mix, little stresses can end up feeling like a really big deal.
For these workers, sending money home isn’t always easy, especially with limited experience using technology. 77% of the Filipino population is unbanked, making getting money into the hands of loved ones while working at sea even more challenging. Yet, earning, managing and sending money home is extremely important.
Fintech advances and social responsibility
Advances in fintech are giving migrants greater control over their finances and making it easier to manage, spend and share their income. And, although we experience fintech as new and exciting, it can be perceived quite differently across the globe. Exposure to technology is vastly different across the globe and in countries where people are leaving home to find work, fintech or technology, in general, aren’t all that common. Financial technology and digital currency can evoke a variety of emotions, from uncertainty to confusion and even fear.
Beyond bringing technology to market, fintech companies have a responsibility to help unbanked populations ease into a new, cashless world. This begins with empathy and reliability. Fintechs must understand that not every user will have the same comfort level with technology.
It requires transparency and simplicity. In the simplest form it means avoiding industry jargon that could confuse or frustrate a person who is new to digital commerce. It requires fintechs to become immersed in the cultures and see firsthand how money works in the geographies they want to serve.
Fintech products should be simple, easy to use and designed to meet the needs of those who are less comfortable with technology. They should take into consideration the meaning of colours and words in different markets. For example, the colour red has a meaning of good luck in China but in South Africa, it is the colour of mourning. It’s the little elements of bringing a product to market that can go a long way to make people feel comfortable.
Fintech is all about inclusion, which often requires a willingness to educate. A critical element of bringing the convenience and control that comes with fintech is educating those who are less familiar with technology and digital currency. For example, at Brightwell we create educational materials that help our end users plan budgets. We teach them the basic foundations of budgeting and saving, such as how to track the money they spend and how much to save. Mastering these skills helps our end users manage their finances wisely so they can better provide for their families today and in the future. With a budget and savings aligned, new doors open for these workers. It gives them the ability to successfully plan for the future. For some, that is retirement. For others, it’s home ownership, funding education or leaving ship life to return home.
With fintech, people across the globe are discovering new opportunities and financial freedom. It’s promoting inclusion and giving fintech companies a chance to take part in something that goes far beyond the benefits of technology.
By Audrey Hall, SVP of product, Brightwell
Brightwell is a fintech company that helps global workers get paid, send and spend money worldwide.