Sending money home: Worldwide remittance flows to developing countries

Oct 2007
Rome, Italy, October, 17 2007 - 150 million migrants worldwide sent more than US$300 billion to thier families in developing countries during 2006

Remittances, the portion of migrant workers’ earnings sent back home to their families, have been a critical means of financial support for generations. But, for the most part, these flows have historically been “hidden in plain view”, often uncounted and even ignored. All that is now changing – as the scale of migration increases, the corresponding growth in remittances is gaining widespread attention.

Today, the impact of remittances is recognized in all developing regions of the world, constituting an important flow of foreign currency to most countries and directly reaching millions of households, totaling approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population. The importance of remittances to poverty alleviation is obvious, but the potential multiplier effect on economic growth and investment is also significant.

The driving force behind this phenomenon is an estimated 150 million migrants worldwide who sent more than US$300 billion to their families in developing countries during 2006, typically US$100, US$200 or US$300 at a time, through more than 1.5 billion separate financial transactions. These funds are used primarily to meet immediate family needs (consumption) but a significant portion is also available for savings, credit mobilization and other forms of investment. In other words, the world’s largest poverty alleviation programme could also become an effective grass roots economic development programme, particularly in the rural areas that present some of the greatest challenges to financial inclusion.

Three aspects could further enhance this development:

  • Improvements in data collection
  • Reduction in transaction costs
  • Increased efforts to leverage remittance flows for greater development impact.

The worldwide remittance map compiles the best available information drawn from data collected on migrant populations, percentage of migrants sending remittances, average amounts remitted annually, as well as the average frequency of annual transfers. Central banks and other official government sources, money transfer companies, international organizations and academic institutions were used for reference support. The map covers 162 developing countries – many for the first time – and, together with the accompanying analysis and data tables, it provides comparative indicators to measure the relative importance of remittances among twenty subregions of the developing world.

Source : IFA

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