India remains top receiver of foreign remittances with $62.7 bn inflows in 2016

India retained its top spot in foreign remittance receipts with Indians working abroad sending home $62.7 billion last year, the highest for any remittance-receiving country for the year, according to a UN report.

India was the top receiving country for remittances in 2016 at $62.7 billion, followed by China ($61 billion), the Philippines ($30 billion) and Pakistan ($20 billion), the report based in the 'One Family at a Time' study by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said.

According to the study, about 200 million migrants globally sent more than $445 billion in 2016 as remittances to their families, helping to lift millions out of poverty. Global remittance flows have grown over the last decade at a rate averaging 4.2 per cent annually, from $296 billion in 2007 to $445 billion in 2016.

The study, the first-ever of a 10-year trend in migration and remittance flows over the period 2007-2016, said 23 countries, led by India, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Pakistan accounted for 80 per cent of remittances.

India alone received $235 billion in remittances in last 3-1/2 years.

India, which was on the second spot, behind China in 2007, with $37.2 billion in remittances compared to $38.4 billion for China, surpassed China in the decade between 2007 and 2016.

Over the past decade, remittances to Asia and the Pacific increased by 87 per cent, reaching $244 billion, while migration grew by only 33 per cent in comparison.

Asia remained the main remittance-receiving region, with 55 per cent of the global flows and 41 per cent of total migrants. The study projects that an estimated $6.5 trillion in remittances will flow to low and middle-income countries between 2015 and 2030.

Asia is the highest originating region with 77 million migrants, with 48 million remaining within the region.

The top 10 remittance sending countries, led by the US, Saudi Arabia and Russia, accounted for almost half of annual flows.

The study also found that the amount of money migrants send to their families in developing countries has risen by 51 per cent over the past decade, even as migration from these countries increased by 28 per cent.

These remittances to developing countries help lift millions out of poverty and in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the study says.

"About 40 per cent of remittances - $200 billion - are sent to rural areas where the majority of poor people live," Pedro de Vasconcelos, manager of IFAD's Financing Facility for Remittances and lead author of the report, said, adding that the money is spent on food, health care, better educational opportunities and improved housing and sanitation.

"Remittances are therefore critical to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)," de Vasconcelos said.

Currently, about 200 million migrant workers support some 800 million family members globally. In 2017, an expected one-in-seven people globally will be involved in either sending or receiving more than $450 billion in remittances, according to the report.

Total migrant earnings are estimated at $3 trillion annually, approximately 85 per cent of which remains in the host countries.

Taken together, the money sent home averages less than one per cent of the host countries' GDP.

These individual remittances, however, add up to more than three times the combined official development assistance (ODA) from all sources, and more than the total foreign direct investment to almost every low-and middle-income country.

The report suggests improving public policies and outlines proposals for partnerships with the private sector to reduce costs and create opportunities for migrants and their families to use their money more productively.

"As populations in developed countries continue to age, the demand for migrant labour is expected to keep growing in the coming years," de Vasconcelos said.

"However, remittances can help the families of migrants build a more secure future, making migration for young people more of a choice than a necessity," he added.

"It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people's lives. The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 per cent of the family's household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live," Houngbo said.