Migration key economic activity for Guatemala: IOM Migration Profile

Guatemala - The IOM Migration Profile for Guatemala released today reports that remittances sent by migrants to their families back home are the largest source of revenue for the country’s economy.

Remittances reached USD 4.7 billion in 2012 and accounted for 11 per cent of the country’s GDP. Combined with foreign direct investment of almost US$ 1.3 billion, remittances dwarf revenue from the country’s main exports of coffee, sugar and bananas.

The increase in remittances, which benefit some 1.5 million Guatemalans, during the period 2000-2006 resulted in a four per cent reduction in the poverty index, according to the Profile. 

Almost 100 per cent of remittances were received from migrants living in the United States.  It is estimated that between one and 1.5 million Guatemalans are in the United States; with some 60 per cent in an irregular situation.

“Guatemala is the gateway to one of the largest migration corridors in the world.  Due to its geographical position and economic characteristics, it is a country of origin, transit, destination and return of migrants.  Every day more than 300 migrants leave the country looking for opportunities in multiple directions.  At the same time, some 200 are forcibly returned from the United States and Mexico each day,” said Delbert Field, IOM Chief of Mission in Guatemala.

Reintegrating returning migrants into the labor force has been a major challenge for the Government of Guatemala.  In the past four years (2009-2012) some 249,000 (more than 90 per cent  males) have been forcibly returned from Mexico and the United States.

Migration of vulnerable groups, which include unaccompanied minors, women and indigenous population has also been on the rise in the past five years.

The IOM Profile suggests that migration is reconfiguring entire families and communities, becoming an issue that requires a legal and institutional framework to respond to these trends, impacts and needs.  

The report stresses the social toll caused by emigration, especially the impact on the family remaining in their place of origin. These are mainly women who must take care of household responsibilities, including home economics and the education of children, who often grow up without a second parental role model.

The document also discusses the relationship between migration and the environment, arguing that this is crucial, especially in Guatemala, where in recent years there have been a number of storms and hurricanes, including Mitch, Stan and Agatha.

The 1976 earthquake increased emigration and recently the November 2012 earthquake greatly affected the department of San Marcos, the largest “sending” department in the country, causing thousands of Guatemalans to see migration as an alternative to escape from the damage caused by the disaster.

The report is divided into four main chapters: Part A analyzes migration trends and migrant characteristics; Part B focuses on the impact of migration; Part C assesses migration management; and Part D presents main conclusions and recommendations regarding migration policies.

The IOM Migration Profile for Guatemala, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), can be downloaded in Spanish from:

For more information, please contact

IOM Guatemala
Tel: +502.231.40.000