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India top receiver of migrant remittances

An estimated 5.7 mn Indians abroad sent home $27 bn in 2007 to make India the top receiver of migrant remittances, according to latest World Bank data.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2008 12:47 IST
Arun Kumar

An estimated 5.7 mn Indian workers abroad sent home $27 bn in 2007 to make India the top receiver of migrant remittances while the US was the main remittance source, according to latest World Bank data.

Workers from China ($25.7 bn), Mexico ($25 bn), the Philippines ($17 bn), and France ($12.5 bn) made up the rest of top five, the bank's new Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008 released in Washington on Wednesday said.

While South-South migration nearly equals South-North migration, rich countries are still the main remittances source, led by the US, it said.

The US was also the top immigration country in 2005, with 38.4 million immigrants, followed by the Russian Federation (12.1 mn), and Germany (10.1 mn). Among low-income countries, India had the highest immigration volume (5.7 mn), followed by Pakistan (3.3 mn).

The factbook provides snapshots of statistics on migration, recorded remittances flows and skilled emigration for 194 countries and 13 regional and income groups.

"Migration is sometimes used as a political pawn, and policies are too often based on anecdotes or misconceptions," said Uri Dadush, Director of the World Bank's Development Prospects Group and International Trade Department.

"By presenting the numbers and facts behind these stereotypes, this publication aims to paint a more objective picture of a crucial aspect of development," added Dadush who also chairs the World Bank's Working Group on Migration.

As migrant remittances have ballooned in size, they have caught the attention of high-level policymakers. For 2007, recorded remittances flows worldwide are estimated at $318 bn, of which $240 bn went to developing countries.

These flows do not include informal channels, which would significantly enlarge the volume of remittances if they were recorded, the World Bank said.

"In many developing countries, remittances provide a life line for the poor," said Dilip Ratha, senior economist, and author of the factbook with Zhimei Xu. "They are often an essential source of foreign exchange and a stabilizing force for the economy in turbulent times."

While international migration is dominated by voluntary movement of people, there were 13.5 mn refugees and asylum seekers, about seven per cent of global migrants, in 2005.

The share of refugees in the population was 14.3 percent in low-income countries - over five times as large as that in high-income OECD countries. The Middle East and North Africa had the largest share of refugees and asylum seekers among immigrants (60 per cent).

Highlights from the factbook:

-- In 2007, the top recipient countries of recorded remittances were India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and France. As a share of GDP, however, smaller countries such as Tajikistan (36 per cent), Moldova (36 per cent), Tonga (32 per cent), the Kyrgyz Republic (27 per cent) and Honduras (26 per cent) were the largest recipients in 2006.

-- The Mexico-US corridor is the largest migration corridor in the world, accounting for 10.4 mn migrants by 2005.

-- Migration corridors in parts of the former Soviet Union - Russia-Ukraine and Ukraine-Russia - are the next largest, followed by Bangladesh-India. In these corridors, natives became migrants without moving when new international boundaries were drawn.

-- The top immigration countries, relative to population are Qatar (78 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (71 per cent), Kuwait (62 per cent), Singapore (43 per cent), Israel (40 per cent) and Jordan (39 per cent). The average share of immigrants in population is under 10 per cent in high-income OECD countries.

-- Rich countries are the main source of remittances. The US is by far the largest, with $42 bn in recorded outward flows in 2006. Saudi Arabia ranks as the second largest, followed by Switzerland and Germany.

-- The volume of South-South migration is almost as large as that of South-North migration, which accounts for 47 per cent of the total emigration from developing countries.

-- South-South migration is larger than South-North migration in Sub-Saharan Africa (72 per cent), Europe and Central Asia (64 per cent), and South Asia (54 per cent).