A new United Nations study reveals that migrants working in industrialized countries sent home more than $300 billion to their families in 2006 – surpassing the $104 billion provided by donor nations in foreign aid to developing countries.
“This figure, which is a conservative estimate, shows that the seemingly small sums sent home by migrant workers when added together dwarf official development assistance,” said Kevin Cleaver, Assistant President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which co-authored the study with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
According to Sending money home: Worldwide remittances to developing countries, Asia received the largest share of the remittances – more than $114 billion – followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with $68 billion, Eastern Europe with $51 billion, Africa with $39 billion and the Near East with $29 billion.
India received the most of any single nation with $24.5 billion, followed by Mexico ($24.2 billion), China ($21 billion), the Philippines ($14.6 billion) and Russia ($13.7 billion).
The study also found that the remittances sent home regularly by some 150 million migrants exceeded foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries, which last year totalled around $167 billion.
IFAD underscored that more than one third of these remittances flow to families in rural areas, and is mostly used for basic necessities such as food, clothing and medicines. While 10 to 20 per cent is saved, too often these savings are hidden in homes rather than put to work in financial institutions, constituting a “major missed opportunity for local development.”
The study based its figures are based on official data from governments, banks and money operators, as well as estimates of informal flows, such as money carried home. It was released yesterday ahead of the International Forum on Remittances 2007, co-hosted by IFAD and IDB in Washington.