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July 2014, Volume 21, Number 3

Remittances, Refugees, ILO

The World Bank projected that remittances to developing countries would surpass $435 billion in 2014, up eight percent from $404 billion in 2013. The average cost of remitting funds is 8.4 percent of the amount transferred in 2014, down slightly from 2013. Migrants in high-income countries have an estimated $500 billion in savings there.

India received $70 billion in remittances in 2013, more than was earned from software service exports, followed by China, which received $60 billion; the Philippines, $25 billion; Mexico, $22 billion; and Nigeria, $21 billion. Remittances were 52 percent of GDP in Tajikistan in 2013; 31 percent in Kyrgyz Republic; and 25 percent in both Nepal and Moldova.

Refugees. UNHCR reported 16.7 million refugees at the end of 2013 (including five million Palestinians), and another 33.3 million internally displaced persons. A combination of ongoing civil wars and the slow return of refugees to their countries of origin (Iran and Pakistan have 2.5 million Afghan refugees) promises to raise both refugee and IDP counts in 2014.

Countries hosting the most refugees at the end of 2013 included Pakistan, 1.6 million; Iran and Lebanon, 860,000 each; Jordan, 640,000; and Turkey, 610,000. By country of origin, Afghanistan produced the most refugees, 2.6 million at the end of 2013; followed by Syria, 2.5 million; Somalia, 1.1 million; Sudan, 650,000; and Congo, 500,000.

The number of refugees who returned to their countries of origin was 414,000 in 2013, and over 98,000 refugees were resettled in third countries.

Almost 613,000 foreigners made new asylum applications in 2013 in the 44 industrialized countries, including almost 400,000 who applied in one of the 28 member states of the EU and almost 90,000 who applied in the US. Germany received the most asylum applications, almost 110,000; followed by the US with 88,000, France with 60,000 new applications, Sweden with 54,000; and Turkey with 45,000. These five countries accounted for 60 percent of new asylum applications in 2013.

The leading source countries of new asylum applicants in 2013 were Syria, Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Serbia, accounting for a third of the new asylum applications in industrialized countries.

Worldwide, some 1.1 million asylum applications were submitted to governments (860,000) or UNHCR (200,000). About 915,000 were first applications, including 64,300 made by Syrians; 60,400 made by Congolese; and 57,400 made by Burmese.

ILO. The International Labor Organization in June 2014 adopted a protocol to strengthen the 1940 ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labor by creating new obligations on governments to prevent forced labor, to protect victims, and to provide access to remedies such as compensation. Governments are to take measures to better protect migrant laborers from fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices.

The ILO estimates that there are 21 million forced laborers around the world, which it defines as work that is "involuntary as a result of force, fraud or deception, and a penalty or threat of a penalty was used to coerce them or their parents in the case of children below the age of 18." Women in forced labor are most often in commercial sex trades and domestic work and men in agriculture, construction and mining.

Urbanization. More than one half of the world population lives in urban areas. All countries, industrial and developing, are urbanizing.

The UN released new data on urbanization in July 2014, reporting that 3.9 billion or 54 percent of the world's 7.3 billion people live in cities, up from 30 percent in 1950 Urbanization is projected to continue, and two-thirds of the world's projected 9.5 billion people in 2050 are expected to live in cities. In 1950, only a third of the world's residents were urban.

The UN defines megacities as those with more than 10 million residents, and such cities included 12 percent of the urban population in 2014. However, half of urban residents live in cities with less than 500,000 residents.

There were 28 megacities in 2014. Tokyo is the largest, with 38 million residents; followed by Delhi, 25 million; Shanghai, 23 million; Mexico City, Mumbai, and Sao Paulo, 21 million each; Beijing, 20 million; and New York and Cairo, 18 million each. Two megacities are in countries that have per capita incomes below $1,000, Dhaka and Kinshasa.

In 1950, New York and Tokyo, each with about 12 million residents, were the world's only megacities.

There were 3.4 billion rural residents in 2014, with 90 percent in Africa and Asia. India has the largest rural population, 857 million, followed by China with 635 million rural residents. The rural population is projected to decline to 3.1 billion in 2050. A dozen places, including Hong Kong and Singapore, are 100 percent urban, while several African countries such as Ethiopia and Uganda are over 80 percent rural.