UN Migration Agency: “Remittance Flows Can Be an Economic and Social Lifeline for Migrant Families”

IOM carries out cash assistance programmes in Gambella, Ethiopia, to help boost local marketplace economies. Photo: IOM/2018

Geneva – International Day of Family Remittances will be celebrated this Saturday (16/06). To mark the occasion, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, wishes to highlight the development potential of financial and social links that tie migrants to their loved ones back at home.

A financial remittance is a private transfer of funds by a foreigner to an individual in their country of origin. Financial remittances have been recognized as playing a key role in reducing poverty and improving the lives of both migrants and their families. In numerical terms, there are more international migrants around the world than at any other period in history, and most of them are migrant workers.

The World Bank estimates indicate that in 2017, USD 466 billion was transferred in financial remittances to low- and middle-income countries –and this trend is likely to continue upwards. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) estimates one in every seven people is directly supported by remittances. This is why the International Day of Family Remittances is celebrated each year.

William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General, has recognized remittance flows as “economic lifelines” for migrant families, highlighting their ability to reduce poverty, provide better health care and access to nutrition, increase education opportunities for children, improve housing and sanitation conditions, promote entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and reduce inequality. While the International Day of Family Remittances has traditionally focused on financial flows, migrants also generate ‘social remittances’ – which is the flow of skills, knowledge, ideas and values they transmit back home. Unlike financial remittances, social remittances extend to the wider community, for a larger development impact.

Taken together, financial and social remittances have an important role to play in the achievement of individual family goals, and more broadly the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. There is however still more to be done before the development potential of remittances can be fully realised. Migrants, governments and the private sector are essential actors in this process.

“Governments can harness the skills and creativity of their diaspora and encourage them to invest back home through coordinated policies,” said Marina Manke, Head of IOM`s Labour Mobility and Human Development Division. “Efforts should be directed towards improving financial literacy amongst the home population and migrants, so that they can make informed decisions about how to send money back and how to invest remittances. Finally, there is a need to fully recognize and appreciate migrants as agents of change — for both their social and financial capital,” she added.

In recent years, IOM has been scaling up its support to governments and migrants to help them reap the development benefits of migration. More than 150 diaspora mappings have been conducted, shedding light on the characteristics of diaspora communities, their location and potential to engage with their communities of origin. Currently, IOM is engaged in several remittance-related projects globally, notably through an initiative to reduce remittance costs in Burundi, and the development of MigApp — a mobile application that enables migrants to compare cost-effective money transfers options offered by service providers.

For more information, please contact Vanessa Okoth-Obbo at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 22 717 9366, Email: