“In recognition of the fundamental contribution of migrant workers to their families and communities back home, and to the sustainable development of their countries of origin”
There are almost 250 million international migrants worldwide living outside the country they call home. Throughout civilization, people have always been on the move, seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families; but the scale of migration from rural to urban areas, and across national borders in the 21st century, is unprecedented. Indeed, this phenomenon has been accurately characterized as “the human face of globalization”.
No matter how many people leave home, many more remain behind. It is estimated that family remittances – the money sent back by migrant workers to their relatives – support another 750 million people worldwide. Adding senders and receivers together, remittances directly touch the lives of one in every seven people on Earth.
A significant majority of migrant workers send money home, typically US$200 or US$300, several times a year. While these amounts may appear to be relatively small, they are often 50 per cent or more of their families’ income back home. Adding together all the billions of transactions involved, remittances reached over US$450 billion in 2015, more than three times the official development assistance from all sources.
Fifteen years ago, remittances were literally unaccounted for because migrant workers and their families “didn’t count”. This has changed dramatically, as remittances have now become an important part of the development agenda for governments and international organizations working around the globe to lower transfer costs, promote financial inclusion, and maximize the impact of these resources for the benefit of families and the communities where they live. It is within our capacity to make every hard-earned dollar, euro, pound, ruble, yen, dinar or naira sent home “count”.
These flows already represent a critical lifeline for millions of households, helping families raise their living standards above subsistence and vulnerability levels, as the extra income goes toward improving health, education and housing, and starting or expanding businesses. But remittances have the potential to “count even more”.
It is indeed at the local level that the positive impact of remittances can be amplified by providing more options and greater economic opportunities for families on the receiving end.
At IFAD, we believe that remittances “count the most” in the small rural towns and villages of developing countries around the world. Here, the most important value is not measured by millions or billions, but by the individual remittance that a father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother sends home regularly as a demonstration of devotion and commitment to their families’ future.
Proclaiming an International Day of Family Remittances represents an invaluable opportunity not only to recognize the efforts of migrant workers globally, but also to strengthen current partnerships and create new synergies among sectors to promote the development impact of remittances worldwide.
This year, over eighty money transfer operators have endorsed the International Day of Family Remittances and have committed to take concrete action to ensure that every hard-earned dollar, euro, pound, rouble, yen, dinar or naira sent home count for even more. Their statements are available here.