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Michael Kent, founder and CEO of Azimo, sheds light on the impact technology has on the lives of migrant workers in the UK:

The last decade has seen vast changes in the way we transfer money around the world and the growth of mobile technology has been at the forefront. Our lives are now centred around devices, whether it’s in our pockets, at home or in the office and as a result our finances.

If we’re not using our mobiles to pay for a journey on the tube, then we’re transferring a tenner to a friend using just their phone number or moving around money between accounts via our bank’s mobile app. We’re increasingly moving towards a cashless society and the way we interact and use of money day-to-day will undoubtedly be different again in another ten years.

The examples above are conveniences but the rise in mobile technology has been a vital lifeline to those who transfer money to family and friends around the world.

Advances in mobile technology is helping to make the money transfer industry fairer for the customers who use it. After years of being pushed around by the banks and charged exorbitant fees from the traditional high street money transfer players, customers now have more choice – sending through just a few swipes on their smartphones. Technology is making the mechanics of money transferring more convenient and secure, but it is also driving down the cost of the transfers themselves.

Misconceptions of migrants

Our service benefits migrant workers all around Europe and, as a result, we often find ourselves dismayed at the attitudes and stereotypes spread about immigrants, especially in the UK. Social media can be a driving force in allowing misconceptions to grow and give naysayers a platform to spread their views. Immigration is never far from the news agenda in the UK and the recent migrant crisis in Calais has once again made it front page news – sparking numerous opinion and comment pieces on the effects of migrants entering the British isles.

Despite all the coverage both in traditional media and social channels, there are still a lot of false messages about the number of migrants entering the country and where they are coming from. In an age where we seem to have an unlimited supply of information, we need to make sure that what we’re absorbing are actually the facts. Luckily, technology also provides a platform to address some of these fears.

In 2013 The Migration Observatory found that over half of the UK population would like migration ‘reduced a lot’ and I wouldn’t be surprised if this figure has increased in the last couple of years. An Ipsos Mori poll from earlier in the year showed that the British public believed that 21 per cent of the population was made up of immigrants, while the actual figure is closer to 13 per cent. (UK Office of National Statistics Labour Force Survey)

It’s worth noting that foreign born workers only make up 16 percent (4.9bn) of the UK workforce and 60 per cent of these workers were born outside the EU. Hardly the eastern European invasion that you often read about in the papers. In fact, only 15 per cent are from Eastern Europe. Another misconception is that migrants are largely coming to this country in the speculative hope they will find a job which is not the case: two thirds of those moving to the UK already have a job lined up before they arrive, yet you’ll still hear countless tales of benefit tourism in the tabloids. The reality is that 93 per cent of the 5.3 million claiming benefits are UK nationals, with those from the EU only accounting for a small number of those receiving state support.

The importance of remittances

We’ve always championed migrant workers here at Azimo – the majority of our workforce are not British-born after all. When we see figures like the ones above, it only drives us to help more, especially when it comes to sending money home.

Remittance is a vital lifeline for families abroad and is worth upwards of $500 billion a year.  According to The World Bank, money transfers support the welfare of an estimated 700 million people globally and direct remittances have a higher impact on developing countries than the total of foreign aid.

Azimo data shows that family support remains the number one reason for customer sending money (over 70 per cent). While educational support is rising, up from 3 per cent in January 2014 to 8 per cent in January 2015, and charitable donations from 2 per cent to 5 per cent over the same period.

Instead of using an inefficient and high cost network of retail locations, such as Western Union, with the right technology in place customers can now send money around the world digitally: through a smart phone, tablet or PC. We now have the ability to unlock close to $15billion a year in the countries that need it most, thanks to technology.

Whatever your view of immigration and foreign workers is in the UK, diversity has never been a negative if we’re all working towards making this world a better place.

Originally published in The Good Web Guide – 13/08/2015