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Working overseas: Seafarers’ remittances and their distribution in Kiribati

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Remittances sent home by seafarers employed on international merchant and fishing ships are a significant income component for the Kiribati economy, with immediate benefits for families and communities. This paper explores the strategies used and the amounts sent by seafarers to their family members by drawing on different data sets, such as remittances data kept in the form of allotment lists by employment agencies, and comparing these with interview responses from seafarers and their families. Remittances are spread throughout extended families and communities firstly via direct allotments sent to individual bank accounts, and secondly through channels of family and community obligations. This paper shows that the general flow of seafarers’ remittances into Kiribati is continuous and has increased over the years with more people engaged in seafaring employment. Families, however, were found to be dependent on individual decisions made by seafarers of how to share their remittances. Kiribati has no institutionalised social welfare system, and as a consequence remittances function as a private safety net for seafarer families.

Keywords: Kiribati; Pacific; labour migration; remittances; seafarers

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-04-01

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