Saluting the Heroes that keep going when the world stopped

COVID-19 By Khalid Fellahi May 15, 2020

People cross borders for a host of reasons: Some move to fill local labor deficits, such as highly skilled expertise or service jobs. Some to reunite with families. Others to study abroad. A minority move to find refuge from conflicts or natural disasters.

When people move, a trail of exchange follows: money, goods, services and technology. They contribute to the economies of the countries they move to with the skills they bring, the taxes they pay, the jobs they fill and their ability to normalize demographics in communities with aging populations. Money earned by these individuals is often sent back to their home communities. These remittances most often go to provide basic support for the family—rent, groceries, and health care—but also can fuel additional opportunities, such as higher education, the purchase of property or to support small businesses.

Remittances are a huge part of the global economy: According to the World Bank, 2019 total remittances globally are estimated to be USD714 billion, with the share to low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) projected to reach $554 billion (final figures not available). That is larger than the total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in LMICs; remittances have exceeded official foreign aid—by a factor of three—since the 1990s. According to the United Nations, about one in nine people globally are supported by remittances.

Many of these global citizens—including medical, police and firefighting professionals as well as essential workers across food, transport, utility, and other essential industries, such as manufacturing and construction—are Western Union customers.

During the COVID-19 crisis, first responders and other essential workers have continued to show up, day after day, making it possible for our communities and economies to carry on. You almost certainly know some, or even have some in your families.

Western Union has begun offering a 50 percent fee discount through May 20 for first responders and essential workers sending money globally via any of our digital channels. We’re doing this for one reason: to acknowledge and say thank you to the people who, when the world stopped, kept going.

According to Western Union’s business intelligence, more than 65 percent of international citizens working and living across the world perform roles as first responders or in essential service industries. Across major remittance-sending countries this representation is 63 percent in the U.S., 67 percent in the U.K, 68 percent in France, 70 percent in Germany, 62 percent in Australia, 58 percent in the UAE and 71 percent in Saudi Arabia.

We often refer to our customers as ‘heroes,’ because so many of them have taken the bold step of venturing far from home, to unfamiliar places and cultures—where they may not even speak the language—to build a more prosperous and empowered future for themselves and their families. Now, as we consider how many of these people are staying on the job in their adopted homes, supporting not just themselves and their faraway families but the people and economies in both places, that word resonates with me more than ever.

The fee reduction, valid with transfer code THANKS2020, applies to any transaction initiated in the majority of Western Union’s digital-enabled countries at or via the Western Union app, and received anywhere Western Union’s Global Network reaches: via bank account or wallet payout in more than 100 countries, as well as retail Agent locations in 200 countries and territories. The fee reduction will run from now until May 20, 2020 and is available to first responders representing medical, police, and firefighting professionals as well as essential workers across food, transport, utility, and other essential industries, including manufacturing and construction.

In addition, Western Union, and the Western Union Foundation, along with partners, have pledged US$1.0 million in the fight against COVID-19. The foundation is prioritizing initiatives that include strengthening healthcare systems around the globe and serving vulnerable populations, including refugees and migrants. Additionally, the Foundation will continue to support local and global nonprofit organizations providing access to essential services, including hunger relief, medical training, education, supplies and equipment for frontline healthcare workers.