Remittances and Lifestyle Changes Among Indonesian Overseas Migrant Workers’ Families in Their Hometowns

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Remittances sent by migrant workers represent one of the largest cash flow into developing countries. This study examines the relationship between remittances and the changing lifestyles among Indonesian overseas workers’ families in their hometowns. Using descriptive research methods, I interviewed 53 relatives of migrants in Indonesia. The results revealed that remittances from migrant workers strongly influenced their family’s lives in their hometowns. As the family’s financial situation improved, their living paradigm also changed in various ways. However, there was a contradiction between the typical worker’s motive, which was to fulfill basic needs in his hometown, and the consumer lifestyle they practiced as reflected in their buying of various items for the exchange value rather than the use value. Thus, the money they earned during their overseas employment was not systematically allocated as long-term productive asset. Instead, they mostly spent the money to achieve symbolic status while showing off their success as overseas migrant workers through engagement in the consumer culture. The behavior and lifestyle of families also changed when one member became a migrant worker. Before having a migrant worker as a family member, a family may live in poverty. When the migrant worker comes home from abroad, the whole family’s lifestyle becomes more consumption-oriented and glamorous. Families of migrant workers, even those in rural areas, are familiar with online shopping, various beauty and cosmetic products, health products, and other consumables. Thus, online sellers often benefit from the consumer behavior of migrant workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-665
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of International Migration and Integration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Indonesian overseas migrant worker
  • International migration in Asia
  • Lifestyle
  • Migrant
  • Remittance


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