Asia is the largest continental source of international migrants in the world – and there are currently over 42.4 million migrants residing in Asia.1 While many leave home to seek better education and economic opportunities, they are often exploited and become even more vulnerable.
Two organisations are working hard to empower migrants in Asia, by giving them the skills and confidence to take control of their futures and create opportunities for themselves.
Aidha, based in Singapore, is helping approximately 800 migrant domestic workers every year to make informed financial decisions, become more confident and achieve economic independence.
“Migrant domestic workers are part of the fabric of life in Singapore,” says CEO of Aidha, Jacqueline Loh. “Women from places like Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar come here and work 13-hour days to get ahead financially. But research shows that only 6% of them return home with enough savings – and more than half go back without any.”
Many of these women work six to seven days a week earning very little and sending most of their paychecks home to support their families. As the local Employment Act doesn’t cover migrant workers, they’re also poorly protected – and often exploited.
Aidha runs three different six-month courses, building women’s confidence in both themselves and their future. Students learn how to manage their money, plan their financial future and start a business. Aidha alumni increase their monthly savings by 78% on average, and 40% end up owning their own businesses.
Macquarie has been supporting Aidha since 2017, through a range of activities such as co-hosting events, raising funds and assisting with one-on-one mentoring. Most recently, Macquarie has also funded Aidha to develop new short courses for these women.
“Some domestic workers can’t make a long-term commitment to join our more immersive courses, often because even their days off might not be within their control. With Macquarie’s help, we researched and developed content for three new short courses to overcome this barrier, with more to come,” Jacqueline says.
And the demand has been overwhelming, with 350 students enrolled in the first full year of the program.
“Macquarie’s three-year grant gave us the confidence to commit to the program, which is set to become just as important as our longer courses.”
Find out more about the Aidha.
India has over 450 million internal migrants, according to its latest census in 2011.2 These migrants leave home in the hope of creating a better future for themselves and their children. But they face many barriers.
“This population gets stuck in a cycle of ignorance, lack of opportunity and poverty that cuts across generations,” says Prerit Rana, co-founder and CEO of Agrasar – a non-profit organisation helping migrants in India progress their future. “A lot of people don’t have proper identification documents which can create a number of issues. Then there’s the issue of social identity – people view others from certain regions as outsiders.”
Agrasar has been working in communities with the highest population of unskilled migrant workers, across the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Odisha. The organisation facilitates employment for migrant workers and enables access to safe and enriching education for their children. It also educates families about their basic rights and how to accesses support services – and empowers them to become self-reliant.
“We run learning centres where we help children catch up to their age group and help them get into a local government school. We work with the schools and keep them accountable to make sure these kids continue their education,” Prerit says.
The organisation also help kids access books and resources, provides career counselling for young adults, and helps them find sustainable employment.
Macquarie has been part of Agrasar’s journey since 2015, assisting with activities like capacity building, events with children, material donations and strategic brain storming.
“Macquarie has also funded one of our skilling centres for young people. But we realised helping people develop certain skills isn’t the complete solution to the employability program. It doesn’t address more complex challenges such as social security and financial literacy. So, Macquarie helped us develop a more holistic program that has evolved into what we call our Migrant Centre,” says Prerit.
The centre helps people connect with government schemes, provides an opportunity to practice interview skills, and builds financial literacy to help migrants save.
With a team of only 45, Agrasar is currently working in eight different communities, helping to change the lives of 50,000 people in each area. And this couldn’t be possible without the support of countless volunteers and partners like Macquarie.
“The team at Macquarie continue to help us develop better partnerships and connect us to other organisations. The attention and respect they show our team are incredible, and we are thankful for their support.”
Find out more about the Agrasar.