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Motivational pep talk can save Indians abroad millions

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Indian workers abroad can be motivated to save more money and make better financial decisions with their spouses if they attend a motivational talk about personal finance, a new study has found.

More than 200 million workers travel abroad to work as maids, construction labourers and at other low-wage jobs.

The money they send back home is often essential to their families' survival and homeland's economy, researchers said.

"This was a simple one-time talk that had a big impact," said study co-author Dean Yang, from the University of Michigan.

"We are just beginning to understand the impact of these simple policies on the workers," said Yang.

The amount of money migrants sent back home exceeded USD 400 billion in 2012.

In Asia, many of the workers come from India, Indonesia and the Philippines, while the US attracts a lot of labour from El Salvador, Mexico and other Latin American nations.

The study involved 200 migrant men from Kerala who were working in Doha, Qatar.

The men, who came from different age groups, education levels and professions, were divided into a control group and a treatment group.

The latter group was given a motivational pep talk about saving by financial guru KV Shamsudheen, a Keralite and popular motivational speaker who runs his own radio show in the United Arab Emirates.

He discussed why migrants needed to save more money and make joint decisions with their spouses.

"This was a short and targeted motivational session, unlike a class," Yang said.

"Even though there wasn't much technical information, the hope was that the session would motivate the migrants to save more," Yang said.

Yang and colleague Ganesh Sesan of Georgetown University in Qatar conducted follow-up surveys 13-17 months later to see if the workers were doing better with saving, sending money home and communicating with their wives.

They said the migrants reported a 30-per cent increase in making financial decisions together with their wives, who also reported a significant increase in seeking out financial education for themselves.

In a subset of families, which had initially reported low savings, the study saw a big increase in savings and sending remittance home.

The study was published in the Journal of Development Economics.

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First Published: Fri, March 07 2014. 21:31 IST