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Empowering migrant domestic workers via financial literacy through TAYO

In the Philippines, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are part of a larger group of what the country calls Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs. Filipinos have a long history of seeking work in other countries, with people working in the United States as early as the 1900s.

The financial resources contributed by migrant workers to their home country is significant, with remittances sent by Filipino migrant workers accounting for 11% of the Philippines’ total GDP in 2018. Migrant workers are also a quiet but significant force with financial resources within the countries that they work in.

Unfortunately, there are many stories of OFWs, often domestic workers, who return home without any savings, have to deal with unresolved financial issues, and end up in precarious financial circumstances despite years — even decades — of working abroad.

Nathania “Tanya” Aritao, founder of TAYO, explained, “At TAYO, the initial market we researched was Hong Kong, where there are approximately 385,000 migrant domestic workers, one of the largest nationalities among that population being Filipino. Many MDWs there face the initial challenge of paying off the debts incurred from migrating in the first place.”

However, Tanya shared that in London, “though the levels of debt in the communities we work in may be lower — with the income higher than in Hong Kong — financial foundations are still weak. When COVID-19 hit London, we saw MDWs suffer a loss of or decrease in income. Many were severely unprepared and relied on support from friends or the greater community in order to cover basic necessities such as food and rent. We know that this lack of financial preparedness is true not just in the migrant population. According to the Money and Pensions Service of the UK, ‘11.5m people have less than £100 in savings to fall back on. 9m people often borrow to buy food or pay for bills.’”

This is why TAYO International, the London-based start-up founded by Tanya, seeks to develop the financial wellbeing of migrant workers via financial education services and management tools that are simple and rewarding.

Tayo is the Tagalog word for “us/we” and “stand”, and this word captures the aim of TAYO to stand together with migrant workers as they take charge of their financial health.

“Despite the Philippines’ reliance on OFWs and their regular remittances, I see a gap in the services that provide OFWs with information, tools and experiences to understand and improve their financial management,” Tanya said. “Migrants have to manage their income; Filipino MDWs in Hong Kong sent 1.1 billion USD to the Philippines in 2018.” See this report from Experian Asia Pacific and Enrich HK for more.

She added that, “lower income bracket migrants in the UK sent £8 billion to their families in their home countries (see this news article for more). And yet, many MDWs that I have worked with left the Philippines unbanked, without prior experience of using a cash machine or money transfer services; they continue to be unbanked today, and those with savings in their home country have their savings in a bank account that is not in their name, or an account they do not have access to.”

When MDWs are able to make confident and informed decisions related to financial management — successfully managing their personal finances and other resources even while supporting family members in their home country — they can avoid stress and ensure their future financial stability.

According to a 2019 survey on OFWs from the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos migrant workers abroad. This number could continue to grow as more people seek work outside the country even in the midst of the global “new normal.”

TAYO’s goal is to encourage MDWs to invest in their financial health, point them towards practical and useful financial education resources, and build a community of learners who are supportive, proactive, and financially empowered.

Reference list

CompareRemit (2020). Contribution Of The OFW To The Philippine Economy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2020].

Coughlan, S. (2018). Migrant workers send home £8bn to families. BBC News. [online] 20 Nov. Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2020].

Leung, H. (2019). Here’s How Much Migrant Domestic Workers Contribute to Hong Kong’s Economy. [online] Time. Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2020].

Mapa, C.D. (2020). Total Number of OFWs Estimated at 2.2 Million. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2020].

Money & Pensions Service. (n.d.). UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing | The Money and Pensions Service. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2020].

The Value of Care. (2019). [online] Enrich HK. Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2020].

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