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ISLAMABAD: Asia is the originating region of the highest number of migrants, 77 million, with 48 million of them remaining within the continent, and annual remittances to the Asia-Pacific region increased by 87 per cent during the past decade, reaching $244 billion, according to a report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Of the total global remittances, 80pc are received by 23 countries, led by China, India, the Philippines, Mexico and Pakistan.

The most dynamic growth in remittances over the past decade has been in Asia, which now receives 55pc of all flows.

The amount of money migrants send to their families in developing countries has risen by 51pc over the decade -- far greater than the 28pc increase in migration from them.

Of the remittances, 40pc go to rural areas, which benefit the agriculture economy, improve food security and generate employment opportunities, particularly for young people.

The report, “Sending mon­ey home: Contributing to the SDGs, one family at a time”, is the first study of a 10-year (2007-16) trend in migration and remittance flows.

While it shows that there have been increases in sending patterns to almost all regions, the sharp rise is in large part due to Asia having witnessed an 87pc increase in remittances.

Between 2015 and 2030, an estimated $6.5 trillion in remittances will be sent to low- and middle-income countries. Most of these resources will be used by remittance-receiving families to reach their individual goals: increased income, better health and nutrition, educational opportunities, improved housing and sanitation, entrepreneurship and reduced inequality.

More than 200 million migrant workers are now supporting an estimated 800 million family members globally. It is projected that in 2017, one-in-seven people in the world will be involved in either sending or receiving more than $450bn in remittances. Migration flows and the remittances that migrants send home are having large-scale impacts on the global economy and political landscape.

Total migrant worker earnings are estimated to be $3tr annually, of which approximately 85pc remains in the host countries. The money migrants send home averages less than 1pc of their host country’s GDP.

Taken together, these individual remittances account for more than three times the combined official development assistance from all sources, and more than the total foreign direct investment to almost every low- and middle-income country.

“About 40pc of remittances -- $200bn -- are sent to rural areas where the majority of poor people live,” said Pedro de Vasconcelos, the manager of IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances and lead author of the report.

“This 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.”

Transaction costs to send remittances currently exceed $30bn annually, with fees particularly high to the poorest countries and remote rural areas.

The report makes several recommendations for 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.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017