Sending Money Home: Worldwide Remittance Flows to Developing Countries

Sending Money Home: Worldwide Remittance Flows to Developing Countries

Remittances, the portion of migrant workers’ earnings sent back ome 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, totalling 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.