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January 2013, Volume 20, Number 1

GFMD, WB: Remittances Top $400 Billion

The UN estimated that there were 214 million international migrants in 2010, defined as persons outside their country of birth for a year or more, double the number of 1985. If current trends continue, there could be over 400 million migrants by 2050.

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held its sixth annual meeting in Mauritius in November 2012, attracting over 160 governments. Many government representatives noted that the GFMD aims to develop "practical policies" to ensure that migration speeds development in migrant countries of origin. The goal is to share successful migration and development policies during the UN's second High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in September 2013.

Many governments believe that more labor migration between developing and industrial countries can speed development, especially if migrants learn skills abroad, send home remittances that are used to improve children's health and education, and return to create small businesses. GFMD representatives discussed efforts to combine pension benefits earned in two or more countries so that a retiree can receive a higher pension in the country in which he or she retires. They also embraced efforts to better document and recognize the skills of migrants.

There are 16 so-called regional processes that bring together governments of migrant countries of origin and destination (COOs and CODs) to discuss issues of mutual concern. The Puebla process began in 1996, and brings the US and Canada together with Mexico and Central American countries (

Remittances. Remittances to developing countries rose from $391 billion in 2011 to $406 billion in 2012, and are projected to continue increasing by $40 billion a year to reach $534 billion by 2015. In 2002, remittances were less than $100 billion.

India received $70 billion in remittances in 2012; China $66 billion; the Philippines and Mexico, $24 billion each; and Nigeria, $21 billion. Egypt ranked sixth, receiving $16 billion, followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan, $14 billion each; Vietnam, $9 billion; and Lebanon, $7 billion. Remittances are the highest share of GDP in ex-Soviet countries such as Tajikistan, where remittances are 47 percent of GDP, Kyrgyz Republic, 29 percent, and Lesotho, 27 percent.

The cost of sending small sums over borders averaged nine percent of the amount transferred, or $18 to send $200. The G8 and G20 countries have pledged to cooperate to reduce remittance costs. Their 5x5 program aims to reduce remittance costs by five percentage points within five years.

Remittance costs for the 20 largest bilateral remittance corridors averaged 7.5 percent of the amount transferred in 2012. It costs over 10 percent of the amount transferred to send remittances from Japan, Germany and France, but only two percent from Russia.

The 48 least-developed countries (LDC) received $27 billion in remittances in 2011 and $42 billion in official development assistance. Bangladesh received almost half of LDC remittances, and Bangladeshis generally paid relatively low remittance costs. Moneygram and Western Union handle two-thirds of remittances to sub-Saharan African countries, where remittance costs averaged 12 percent of the amount sent.

Gallup. Gallup polls adults in 146 countries, asking several questions about migration. Beginning in 2007, Gallup asked people if they would like to migrate, and 13 percent or 640 million of the world's residents 15 and older in 2011 said they would like to leave their country permanently. (

Between 2009 and 2011, almost 150 million of these potential migrants said they wanted to move to the US, followed by 45 million who wanted to move to the UK and 42 million who wanted to move to Canada. Gallup said that these results are based on interviews with over 450,000 adults in 151 countries.

The countries with the largest numbers of potential emigrants include China, 22 million; Nigeria, 15 million; India, 10 million; and Bangladesh, eight million.

Gallup surveys in 2009-10 found that 26 percent of adults would migrate to another country to work temporarily, and 14 percent would migrate permanently. ( Almost half of sub-Saharan Africans would migrate temporarily, and a third would emigrate permanently, while less than 20 percent of Asians would migrate temporarily, and less than 10 percent would emigrate permanently.

Younger people with more education who were underemployed at home were most likely to want to leave their countries temporarily or permanently.

In 2011, almost half of those polled said that their communities were good places for immigrants to live and presumably integrate. There was wide variance by region, with more than two-thirds of respondents in the Americas, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa agreeing their communities were good for immigrants, but only a third of Asians agreeing their communities were good for immigrants.

Almost 90 percent of respondents in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand were most likely to agree that their communities were good places for immigrants, although 81 percent of Americans agreed as well. Fewer than 20 percent of Malaysians and Thais agreed that their communities were good places for immigrants.

World Bank. 2012. Migration and Development Brief 19. November 20.