Harnessing the Remittance Boom

ROME – For more than a decade, Asia’s economies have been on the move – and so have its people. The scale of migration from rural to urban areas and across international borders is historically unprecedented, and twenty-first-century Asia is its focal point.

In Asia’s developing countries, the power and potential of remittances – the money that migrant workers send home to their families (many of whom live in poor and remote areas) – is immense. Currently, over 60 million migrant workers from the Asia/Pacific region account for more than half of all remittance flows to developing countries, sending home about $260 billion in 2012.

China, India, and the Philippines are the three largest recipients of remittances, while Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam are also in the top ten. The money is often a lifeline: it is estimated that 10% of Asian families depend on payments from abroad to obtain their food, clothing, and shelter.

But, while remittances to developing countries are five times higher than official development assistance, the enormous potential returns for society have not been realized – and can be secured only if the flow of money can be channeled into effective rural and agricultural development, particularly in fragile states and post-conflict countries. Doing so would contribute significantly to creating jobs, enhancing food security, and fostering stability in countries emerging from strife.