Remittances After Disasters: Case Study of Tacloban City, Philippines After Typhoon Haiyan
For the last forty years, remittances have been the Philippines’ lifeline in times of crisis as well as everyday life. So, it was no surprise when NGOs and the media credited the diaspora with playing a significant role in post-disaster recovery after Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) struck the Philippines on November 8th, 2013. Despite the mass destruction and widespread poverty of the region, particular attention was drawn to the surge of remittances, the funds international migrants send to their family back home. While many macroeconomic studies on remittances and disasters also suggest an increase in remittances following major hazards, the distribution of these funds remain poorly understood. This thesis explores the question under what conditions are households able to turn access to migrants into remittances after major disasters? This study argues that the income category of the household, the relation of the migrant abroad to the household, the occupations of the migrant, the country the migrant is living or working in and the social capital of the household are five main factors that affect a household’s ability to turn access to migrants into remittances after major disasters. Using Typhoon Haiyan as a case study, this dissertation presents data collected from seven months of fieldwork in Tacloban City, Philippines. Looking at three communities heavily affected by Haiyan, this study compares middle and lower income households that have access to remittances with households that do not. My thesis argues that households that are able to turn their access to migrants into remittances after disasters tend to share these five conditions: they are middle income households, they have multiple skilled migrants abroad, those migrants are often in Western countries, those migrants are immediate family members, and the households have many bonding as well as linking ties. These middle income households are much better placed to turn their access to migrants into remittances after disasters because they have more economic and social capital than lower income households. Most lower income households have limited to no access to migrants and limited capacity to turn their access to migrants into remittances after a disaster.