Charis (name protected), 49 years old, works in advertising sales and experienced a chaotic situation since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, as their income has drastically decreased and was in debt.
Even a little before the restriction and confinement measures, he had received a credit of $30,000 to make an apartment in which one of his four children who already has a commitment would live. “Most companies do not want to advertise in traditional media and prefer to promote themselves directly on social networks. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she indicates.
Su His way out was to travel to the United States, with a tourist visa that he obtained before the pandemic, but his real goal was to work. First, he traveled to New York, where his cousin lives, for fifteen days. There she realized that there were job openings, so she returned to stay for six months, between last July and January of this year.
“On the second trip I bought a ticket for three months, but I paid the $260 fine to change the return flight and I finally stayed for six months,” says Charis, who is divorced.
6,276 Ecuadorians have been detained in the United States, deported and expelled from that country between January and April of this year
She lived through difficult times, with a double day of work a week in which he slept barely an hour, even at the train stop, between both jobs. One was a day shift, Monday through Thursday, in which he packed and stamped perfumes and medicines. The other, from Wednesday to Sunday, during night shifts in a hotel-discotheque, where she placed napkins, collected glasses and supplied the bathrooms with toilet paper.
“ate only one meal: a lunch that consisted of a Peruvian ceviche plus rice, either with a stew and fish; he ate it three times a day”.
In the first job he earned $14 an hour and in the second, $23. he had a tourist visa, therefore, he received his salary under a false identification, which is known as ID. “With that come your checks, which you change at Western Union. Suddenly, you can use your middle name and last name.”
‘They lent my stepfather 8,000 dollars and he paid 35% more ($10,800) in 4 years in unsecured documents that we independents cannot do, I do not want to join the IESS and they should not oblige’
Then he sent the money to Ecuador through couriers with the code of a friend who already has her situation legalized. She “she earned well, because she also received tips. She made two weekly shipments, usually $900 each, from what she earned at the nightclub,” she says.
What he got from the day job was to cover his expenses in the US, such as rent for a room, for which he paid $600 a month, plus transportation and food. In total, he says he earned around $65,000 during the six months he worked.which he sent to the country so that his children could support themselves and cover the debts that have accumulated since 2020 with the use of credit cards.
“I couldn’t stay any longer, because the maximum term for being a tourist was coming to an end; Otherwise, I already stayed as a migrant and could not leave. that was not my idea”.
Charis plans to return to the US next August. She is aware of the risks she runs; therefore, she takes precautions when collecting and sending the money. “I have seen people who have discovered them. When you return they don’t tell you anything; but, to what you go again, they take you and put you in the room where they interrogate you, they take your phone, they check everything. They take out the check that you have cashed, they tell you that you have worked on that side and that you have not gone as a tourist.
His work in Ecuador continues, since he coordinates everything from his home.
The situation of three of her four children is difficult. One is a civil engineer and found a fair job last July, when Charis traveled to the US; but after a month he was fired, since a relative of his worked in the same company, and until now he has not found another job.
Another of his sons just found a job last March in a supermarket in Guayaquil. He has a baby with his wife, who doesn’t work. And the other daughter has a degree in Interior Design and she also recently started working.
Only her first daughter is married and lives independently in another home.
There are cases of Ecuadorians who have also traveled with a tourist visa, but if they have stayed to work irregularly beyond the permitted period and can no longer return.
William Murillo, executive president of 1800Migrante.com, affirms that the country lives the largest migratory spike since the economic crisis of 1998 and 1999.
A total of 1,654,188 Ecuadorians traveled abroad during 2021 and 81,758 did not return; while in 2020 there was a migratory balance in favor, since more returned than those who left, with a balance of 1,504 compatriots.
In 2019, 1,544,708 Ecuadorians left, 1,513,513 entered and 31,195 did not return.
In each year of the period 1997-2021 there is a negative balance because more Ecuadorians go abroad than return to the country with the exception of 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2020, according to historical figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, which reflects the exodus.
Los 81,758 who did not return in 2021 is the highest number since 2004. In 2003 the return of 127,135 who left was not recorded.
The problem is that some Ecuadorians have naturalized going to work in the United States with a tourist visa, which may affect those who do travel for that purpose, says Murillo.
“The US government knows very well who are the Ecuadorians who, having tourist visas, stay six months in the United States. I do not know people who have enough economic capacity to go on vacation for half a year. When they renew, they are caught there, because they are told that they had a five-year tourist visa, of which two and a half years have been spent there as tourists. So they don’t renew them.”
Las remittances that arrived in the country from abroad totaled 4,362.6 million dollars in 2021, 31% more than in 2020. It is a record figure never before recorded, since the Central Bank of Ecuador issued this statistic from 1993.
64% of the remittances that arrived during 2021 came from the United States; 21% from Spain; and 4% from Italy. These are the three countries from which the most money is sent.
Yenny and Cecilia Villafuerte Toala are two sisters who migrated to Italy precisely in 2000, in the migratory wave at the beginning of the 21st century. Since then they send money. Now it’s $120 a month, at least, to cover your mother’s food and medicine expenseswho lives in the southwest of Guayaquil.
“Sometimes they have to send more, since my mother has osteoporosis and other ailments; she is already in a wheelchair”, says Pilar, Yenny and Cecilia’s sister.
Eulalia Toala, the mother of the three, is 89 years old and at the time she also received money apart from her monthly allowance from Italy to improve her house.
Pilar does not have a permanent job. Until before the pandemic, she was the one who took care of Eulalia, but now that function is in charge of another of her sisters.
The reason is that Pilar helps in the parcel business she has with her sister Yenny, the first in her family to migrate to Genoa (Italy).
The money flowing from Italy is vital for this familyPilar acknowledges.
Guayas is the province that receives the most remittances and, for the first time, broke the record, with 1,186.2 million dollars received, 26% more than in 2020.
Azuay and Pichincha follow, but in the first there is an increase of 46% between 2020 and 2021, while in the second the increase was 24%.
The underlying problem, says Segundo Camino, professor of economics at the Universidad de Especialidades Espiritu Santo (UEES), is the lack of opportunities in Ecuador, which forces the population to look for them abroad. “This is a symptom of the migration of Ecuadorians to countries like the United States and Europe, for the most part. There is a greater number of Ecuadorians who have left the country.”
Also, the period in which fewer remittances were received (2010-2015) and the increase since then may respondCamino adds, because the dollar appreciated against the euro, something that is no longer the case today. “Those who worked in Europe, even if they earn more in euros, sent fewer dollars to the country (in exchange), which is no longer the case, because now there is a depreciation of the dollar against the euro.”
Camino assures that the recovery of the labor situation in Ecuador is still very low and is happening slowly. “Decent employment (which is earning the basic salary of $425 or more) has barely increased by one percentage point, while informal employment has grown, and unemployment has slightly decreased.; it is not expected. Apparently, there is a transition from formal employment to underemployment or inadequate employment (which are people with incomes of less than $425), which is job insecurity”.
Charis asks the current regime of President Guillermo Lasso to open more jobs, especially for the youngest, and to annul measures by companies that he considers absurd.
“So much so that young people study to remain prostrate in a house because there is no job. If they are young, they ask for experience; if they have the experience, they ask for youth; when in other countries they don’t see that. Here two relatives cannot be working in the same company, while in New York there are up to five brothers working in the same place without conflicts”.
Sending money from Ecuador does not reach what it used to be before the COVID-19 pandemic
Las remittances sent from Ecuador fell 20.6% from 2019 to 2020due to the loss of jobs and the reduction in the income of families in the country in that period.
From 2020 to 2021, an increase of 17.2% is observed, going from $507.7 million to $595 million, but what was remitted during 2019 (639.2 million dollars) has not yet been reached.
What was sent in 2021 is 6.9% lower than what was registered in 2019, so there is still no recovery of the values from before the COVID-19 pandemic.
97.3% of what was sent in 2021 was made through couriers and rowing machines followed by banks.
The recipient countries that received the most money were Colombia, Mexico, Peru and China.
Venezuela occupies the eleventh place, but this is mainly due to the fact that third countries are used to send the amounts or it is sent indirectly to avoid the official exchange that governs in that country between bolívares (the official Venezuelan currency) and dollars.
Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are the cities from which the most money is sent, followed by Ambato and Santo Domingo. (I)