India is among the top recipients of money sent by expatriates in Britain, according to a survey conducted by the Department for International Development (DFID).
The survey reveals that more than a third of ethnic minority households, which responded to a UK-wide survey, sent an average 870 pounds back home to their families living in some of the poorest parts of Africa and Asia last year.
Considered the most comprehensive look at the private money transfer habits of Britain's Asian, African, Caribbean and Chinese communities, the survey reveals some new characteristics. Its key findings are:
* About 38 per cent of ethnic minority households that responded to the survey sent an average of 870 pounds back home last year, the equivalent of an overseas holiday.
* Of the 50 plus developing countries receiving money from the UK, the five largest recipients were Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Jamaica and Ghana.
* The average income of the senders was 22,000 pounds and 70 per cent were aged 25-44 years old.
* In almost 50 per cent of cases, people were sending money to their parents, 25 per cent to other close relatives like cousins and 15 per cent were sending money to spouses and children.
* At least 31 per cent of senders said the money would be used to buy food, 21 per cent said it would help with medical bills and 17 per cent reported the funds would help pay for schooling.
* Eighty per cent said the money would make a real difference to the lives of their relatives back home.
Gareth Thomas, minister for international development said: "Sending money home to families in developing countries plays a vital role in helping to tackle poverty, but until now there was little detailed information on what contribution ethnic minorities in the UK made.
"This new survey fills this gap, and improving understanding will help banks, community groups and financial service providers offer more options to people wishing to send money home to relatives."
A typical South Asian family sent an average of over 1,000 pounds back home in 2005 but African households were not far behind with 910 pounds. Those communities sending below the 870 ponds overall average included black Caribbean and Chinese.
Households in the survey remitted money to over 50 different developing countries. Four in 10 remitting households sent money to Africa, with Nigeria being the leading recipient nation in terms of number of remitting households (17 per cent).
Other countries receiving remittances from large numbers of households were India (14 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Jamaica (7 per cent) and Ghana (5 per cent).
The research found that the most important factor for people when deciding how to send money home was whether it would arrive safely. But almost a quarter of those questioned complained that charges seemed too high.
Many poor countries receive more in money sent back by relatives than they do from overseas companies investing in the local economy.
For instance, Ghana receives around 10-15 per cent of its national income from remittances sent from around the world, compared with around three percent from foreign investment.
The DFID helped set up the UK Remittances Task Force, which includes members from the British Bankers' Association, Barclay's bank, the Post Office, MoneyGram International, VISA Europe and ICICI Bank.
The task force is looking at reducing barriers and costs to remittance flows, improving data and reducing barriers for firms to enter the remittances market. According to the official IMF statistics, $230 billion worth of remittances were sent to developing countries worldwide.
Official sources say that international remittances flows are very large and growing, constituting now a large share of international financial flows and acquiring an even greater importance in the balance of payments of recipient countries, besides helping in supplementing the incomes of millions of families in developing countries.
The survey revealed that the majority of remittances were channelled through high-street money transfer operators, with 62 per cent of households admitting to having used them at least once during last year.
The second most used channel has been to transfer moneys via friends and relatives, which 45 per cent of sampled units used at least once during the year.
While working full-time does not seem to be a prerequisite for remitting, the majority of remitters are in full-time employment and the average remitter lives in a household earning 1,800 pounds per month, though a significant minority (25 per cent) lives in households earning under 870 pounds per month.
Though most remitters are first-generation immigrants, about 20 percent of remitters have been born in Britain.