Migrant construction workers as part of an on-going project aiming to promote well-managed labour migration flow from India, Nepal and Pakistan to selected States in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Photo: © ILO

Migrant workers and remittance cash flows

New findings of remittance cash flows in the Asia-Pacific region were presented and discussed at the Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development hosted by IFAD in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) released the new web portal "Remitscope" and published the report RemitSCOPE - Remittance markets and opportunities – Asia and the Pacific.

Both were presented at the Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development – Asia Pacific, which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from the 8th to 10th May 2018. The forum brought together more than 300 policy-makers, private sector stakeholders and civil society leaders to map out the road ahead for enhanced remittances.

Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development

Since its inception over ten years ago, the Global Forum on Remittances, Investment and Development (GFRID) has served as a platform to raise awareness, facilitate dialogue and promote collaboration on the contribution of migrant remittances to development. By bringing together member states, international organisations, the private sector and civil society, the forum allows stakeholders to showcase good practices and build partnerships to leverage the role of remittances in countries and communities of origin towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Remittance cash flows in the Asia-Pacific region

Remittances are particularly crucial in rural areas, where poverty is highest. World-wide, an estimated 40 per cent of the total value of remittances goes to rural areas. However, in the Asia-Pacific region, a disproportionally high level of remittances goes to countries with a majority of rural populations, such as Nepal (81%), India (67%), Viet Nam (66%), Bangladesh (65%), Pakistan (61%) and the Philippines (56%). Remittances to rural areas are generally costlier due to expenses associated with offering access points in distant locations.

Last year, migrant workers sent USD 256 billion to their families in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the report RemitSCOPE - Remittance markets and opportunities – Asia and the Pacific and the new web portal on remittances released by IFAD. While remittances benefit about 320 million family members in the region, most of them in rural areas, remittance markets still need to transform to ensure that families can fully benefit from the flows.

Remittance markets and opportunities

The report is a synthesis of the latest remittance data and analysis and remittance-market profiles of 50 individual countries. The ambition of this new web portal is to help decision-makers and industry transform remittance markets for cheaper, faster and safer transactions, in particular for rural areas.
According to the report, the cost of sending money to the region has decreased. Lower transfer costs mean more money available to families. IFAD Senior remittance expert Pedro De Vasconcelos explains that further efforts are needed. For digitalisation of transfers to happen, regulators and private sector companies needed to work further together to harmonise legal and regulatory frameworks between countries and support the design of products driven by customer needs, De Vasconcelos says.

In the region, families generally spent about 70 per cent of remittances to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing, healthcare and education. The remaining 30 per cent, amounting to USD 77 billion, could be saved and invested in asset-building or income-generating activities, helping families to build livelihoods and their future, according to De Vasconcelos.

Although financial inclusion has increased since 2011, with half of the adults in the region running a bank account, with the exception of the excluding high-income economies, this does not represent the reality of the substantial majority of remittance-receiving families, where financial exclusion remains predominant.

Key facts from the report

  • Remittances to the Asia-Pacific region amounted to USD 256 billion in 2017, representing 53 per cent of flows world-wide.
  • India, China and the Philippines are the three largest remittance-receiving countries in the world. Pakistan and Viet Nam are also in the top ten.
  • About 70 per cent of remittances sent to Asia and the Pacific come from outside the region, in particular from the Gulf States (32 per cent), North America (26 per cent) and Europe (12 per cent).
  • Remittances contribute more than ten times the official development assistance in the region.
    One out of every ten people in the region is directly affected by remittances, either as a sender or as a receiver.
  • Around USD six trillion in remittances is expected to be sent to developing countries by 2030. Over half of these flows will arrive in the Asia Pacific regions, very often in small towns and villages.
  • Increasingly, the majority of migrants (60 per cent) are now finding work in the region, with Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand being major destinations for migrant workers.
  • Remittance outflows amount to USD 78 billion, with 93 per cent of the flows remaining within the region.


More information:
Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development – Asia Pacific 2018
Remitscope webportal
Report RemitSCOPE - Remittance markets and opportunities – Asia and the Pacific

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