Sustaining Precarious Transnational Families: The Significance of Remittances from Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program

Don Wells, McMaster University
Janet McLaughlin, Wilfrid Laurier University
André Lyn, United Way of Peel Region
Aaraón Díaz Mendiburo, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos


Accelerating flows of remittances are dwarfing global development aid. This study deepens our understanding of remittance impacts on the families of workers who come to Canada annually for several months under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Interviews with SAWP workers, their spouses, adult children and teachers in Mexico deepen our understanding of the impacts of these remittances. They demonstrate that the remittances are often literally a lifeline to transnational family survival, allowing them to pay for basic needs such as shelter, food, and medical care. Yet, at the same time, the raemittances do not allow most of these workers and their families to escape deep poverty and significant precarity, including new forms of precarity generated by the SAWP. Instead, SAWP remittances help reduce poverty, at least temporarily, to more moderate levels while precarious poverty expands through global neoliberal underdevelopment.