Migrant workers sent $256 billion home to Asia-Pacific last year: U.N.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Migrant workers from the Asia-Pacific region sent $256 billion home last year, but more needs to be done to cut costs and make money transfers easier, said a United Nations report on Monday.

Remittances, which have risen about five per cent since 2008, helped about 320 million family members across the region last year, according to the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“It is crucial and critical to make sure these flows arrive fast and cheap,” said Pedro de Vasconcelos, a remittance expert at the IFAD. “It is a lifeline for millions of families.”

According to the report, 80 million migrant workers sent money home an average eight to 10 times per year.

They usually paid about seven per cent in charges to use cash-to-cash transfers, which enable money to be sent overseas often without using a personal bank account.

A decade ago, remittances to people in rural areas could cost as much as 20 to 25 per cent in fees, charges and currency exchange rates, said De Vasconcelos.

But rates are still too high despite increased competition, he added.

He urged those making and receiving remittances to embrace digital technology such as mobile phones for transferring money, and he predicted that such methods would soon overtake cash-to-cash.

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