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Long Stay Abroad Leads to Poverty, Research Shows (III)

Thu, 2 Aug 2012 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

The comments received via email following the publication of part one of this article demonstrate that a couple of readers did not fully understand the subject matter of the research carried out. However, this is understandable considering the fact that full details of the research was not presented in the article. But as we know, articles for publication in newspapers and online news outlets are not supposed to be too long, and can therefore not be too detailed. This piece seeks to briefly clarify the subject matter of the study and to justify the approach employed.

What readers need to understand is that the word ‘poor’ or ‘poverty’ used in the research does not necessarily mean that Africans who have been living in industrialized countries for ages are not earning any money at all, and it does not deny the fact that some do earn more than others. It rather, in a figurative way, suggests that the earnings and/or savings of majority of Africans in advanced nations keep diminishing from year to year.

Some people are concerned about the apparent failure to categorize respondents into social groupings (in terms of occupation or status), such as working class (unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled), middle class (lower, middle, upper), upper class, etc., and to interpret their responses accordingly (i.e. to interpret the responses of members of one group independent of the responses of those in other groups). Now the interesting question is: under what category (working class) would one place an African who is a part-time lecturer or lawyer during the day and full-time security officer during the night, or someone who works as a qualified part-time nurse during the night and a full-time cleaner during the day? What about an African who works as a full-time teacher during academic periods and a full-time security officer or sales person during vacations, etc.?

Of course the study involved people in various occupations or professions; from cleaners, security officers and sales persons, through bankers, nurses and administrators, to engineers, lecturers and medical doctors. However, the size of their individual monthly or annual earnings was not exactly what the research sought to explore.

In other words, the study was not just about how much individual respondents were or are earning, and whose earnings are more decent than whom. It rather focused on the difference between the individuals’ past incomes and present earnings, and also looked at the percentage of their current monthly earnings being saved and/or used for significant personal projects, as against the percentage of their monthly earnings that was saved and/or used for significant personal projects during the initial stages of their stay and mid-way through their sojourn in the industrialized world. Respondents took into consideration the number of children they had in the past and how many they are caring for today.

This means that a security officer, who five years ago, was earning £1200 but is now earning £1500, is doing better than a lecturer who used to earn £3000 five years ago but is now earning £2000. Again a cleaner who five years ago was earning £1000 a month and saving/investing £400 (40%) of her earnings, and currently earning £1200 and saving/investing £600 (50%), is doing better today than the medical doctor who five years ago was earning £3000 and saving/investing £1500 (50%) but currently earning £4000 and saving/investing £1000 (25%).

It should of course not be forgotten that the life style of people belonging to the upper echelons of society (who in fact form just a fraction of the African population in the advanced world) is generally more expensive than those within the unskilled or semi-skilled working class. For instance, an African medical doctor or lawyer in London, UK, is likely to spend between £1000 and £2000 of their monthly earnings on accommodation alone, whereas a cleaner or security officer may not spend more than £400 of their monthly income on accommodation unless they have a big family. This and other factors explain why too much attention was not paid to respondents’ social stratification.

As a matter of fact, many of those who said their earnings and/or the amount they save/invest have considerable shrunk over the years, belong to the so-called middle or upper class.

Anyone who thinks that 160 respondents are not enough in a qualitative research is getting it all wrong. 60 respondents would in fact be more than enough even in a PhD research project.

It must also be pointed out that every research exercise has its own limitations. If an academic-minded reader genuinely believes that the approach employed in a study diminishes the credibility of its findings, the more helpful and mature thing to do, is not to make hasty and empty comments, but to identify the ‘hitches’ and propose the approach(es) they consider to be more appropriate. Sadly, many of our African folks who call themselves Doctors, PhD holders and/or lecturers hardly read or revise their lecture notes let alone embarking on research activities, yet, they are the first to rubbish other people’s research efforts.

Again, to appreciate or make sense of the information in part two, readers are advised to first read the part one. The part one and part two of this article, titled, ‘The Longer Africans Stay Abroad, the Poorer they Become, Research Shows’, and ‘Long Stay Abroad Leads to Poverty’, are available on http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=245496 and http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=246386&comment=8143187#co respectively.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power) is an Investigative Journalist, a researcher and the author of Fourth Phase of Enslavement (2011) and In My End is My Beginning (2012). He may be contacted via email (andypower2002@yahoo.it).

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong