By Baher Kamal: Over 270 million migrant workers are now a major life-saving source for up to one billion people starving in the world’s poorest communities, as well as a vital lifeline for the economy of their countries of origin.
Migrant workers’ remittances amount to over 689 billion US dollars a year, which is over three times greater than the whole Global Official Development Assistance, now situated at around 180 billion US dollars.
Not only: officially recorded remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries are expected to increase by 4.2% this year, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief released on 11 May this year.
Moreover, migrant workers remittance flows have increased five-fold over the past twenty years, serving in a counter-cyclical capacity during economic downturns in recipient countries, according to this year’s International Day of Family Remittances on 16 June.
According to the UN agency, more than half of all international migrants (141 million) live in Europe and North America.
Focusing on the Middle East, data showed that Gulf countries have some of the largest numbers of temporary labor migrants in the world, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they make up almost 90 per cent of the population.
Most hail from India, Mexico and China
India continues to be the largest country of origin of international migrants, with 17.5 million living abroad, followed by Mexico (11.8 million) and China (10.7 million).
Other findings indicate that the number of migrant workers declined slightly in high income countries but increased elsewhere. Upper middle-income countries saw the biggest increase, from 17.5 million to 30.5 million.
Money sent home reaches $689 billion
Linked to this, international remittances also increased to $689 billion in 2018, IOM said, the top beneficiaries being India ($78.6 billion), China ($67.4 billion), Mexico ($35.7 billion) and the Philippines ($34 billion).
The United States remained the top remittance-issuer, at $68 billion, followed by the United Arab Emirates ($44.4 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($36.1 billion).
How are migrant workers’ remittances spent?
The United Nations reports the following:
Remittances represent on average up to 60% of a recipient family’s income, and typically more than double their disposable income. The funds help deal with uncertainty, allowing them to build assets.
Analyses of 71 developing countries show significant poverty reduction effects of remittances: a 10% increase in per capita remittances leads to a 3.5% decline in the share of poor people in the population.
In rural communities, half of remittances are spent on agriculture-related expenses.
Additional income increases receiving households’ demand for food, which increases domestic food production and improves nutrition, particularly among children and the elderly.
Investment of migrants’ income in agricultural activities creates employment opportunities.