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Qualitative Research: Tracing Informal Remittance Systems in Indonesia

By: Published: 2015 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases
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As a part of my PhD dissertation in Economics, I investigated household poverty in Indonesia. In examining household incomes and expenditures, I realized that little was known about remittances as a source of household income. These remittances are from family members who are migrant workers and include two types: formal and informal. Formal remittances are used by households that have bank accounts. In developing countries such as Indonesia, many households do not have bank accounts, so remittance data captures only fund flows from formal remittances. I was curious to examine informal remittance systems (also known as ‘underground banking’) to gain a better understanding of all sources of remittances. This case study provides a practical account of observational research and interviewing to trace informal remittance systems in Indonesia. It includes carrying out fieldwork in an area of civil conflict and details the research design and methodology used to build knowledge of underground banking, a social phenomenon that researchers once felt was too difficult to study. Despite challenges faced in the field, the findings provide insight that complements quantitative analysis. Such qualitative research addresses the criticism that quantitative data collection and analysis reduce the narrative of a social phenomenon into numbers.

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Observational research