Pacific region

  • The Pacific subregion has the highest number of countries in the whole of Asia and the Pacific, 18 in total.
  • Most of these are small island nations, many of them dependent on remittances.
  • The 18 countries or areas are split relatively evenly between those that are predominantly sending markets (Australia and New Zealand are the largest) and those that are receiving markets.
Predominantly receiving countries
New Caledonia
Marshall Islands
Micronesia, Fed. Sts.
Predominantly sending countries
American Samoa
French Polynesia
New Zealand
Northern Mariana Islands
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands
Migration Sources: UNDESA 2017
  • Although the number of migrants from the subregions is low in absolute numbers, 1.8 million in 2017, the number has grown significantly since 2010 (at an annual rate of 2.4 per cent per year), and represents a high percentage of the origin countries’ population.
  • For instance, Samoa has an estimated emigrant stock of 118,000 people and a domestic population of 195,000, making emigrants the equivalent of 60 per cent of the local population.
  • Most migrants have moved for economic reasons, with Asia (and particularly Australia and New Zealand) being their main destination.
  • Pacific citizens also move to the United States of America.
Immigrants to Pacific 2010 2017 CAGR1 2010-2017(%)
Total 7,115,003 8,399,174 2.4
From all Asia and the Pacific 2,247,782 3,927,724 8.3
Emigrants from Pacific 2010 2017 CAGR 2010-2017 (%)
Total 1,554,070 1,839,940 2.4
To all Asia and the Pacific 270,865 94,532
Remittances (millions of US$) Sources: WB, Remittances bilateral matrix 2016
  • Just under US$5 billion was sent to the Pacific region in 2017, with 65 per cent arriving from Asia. The majority was received from Australia and New Zealand.
  • The significance of these remittances cannot be underestimated to the countries themselves, as the region has some of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world: remittances are at least 3 per cent of their GDP for six countries, including Tonga (20 per cent) and Samoa (17 per cent).
  • The subregion sent US$21 billion in 2017, of which 59 per cent went to Asia and the Pacific.
  • Australia is the largest sender (US$17 billion), followed by New Zealand (US$2 billion).
  • Aside from the Pacific Islands, the other main flows are to China, India, the Philippines and Viet Nam.
Inflows to Pacific (US$ million) 2014 2017 CAGR 2014-2017 (%)
From Asia and the Pacific380322-5.4
Largest inflows > US$ billion
Main receive countries from the sub-region
Outflows from Pacific (US$ million) 2014 2017 CAGR 2014-2017 (%)
To Asia and the Pacific10347.714112218412464
Largest outflows > US$ billion
Main receive countries from the sub-region
New Zeland2.4
Inflows origin
Outflows destination
United Kingdom1.3
Viet Nam1.2
Remittance reliant countries with remittance/GDP > 3% (2016)
Marshall Islands13.4
Micronesia (Federated States of)7.1
Costs Sources: WB RPW Q1 2018
  • Costs to send to the Pacific are above the global average (7.1 per cent), at 8.4 per cent, although this has decreased from 10.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2015.
  • The markets are not as competitive as they should be due to the small number of specialist operators, the lack of infrastructure in the receiving countries, the small absolute size of the markets and the impact of de-risking.
  • Cost to send remittances is also above the global average, at 8.3 per cent.
  • This is a small reduction from 9.3 per cent in 2015.
Costs to receive US$200 (% of amount sent)
Costs to send $200
New Zealand8.4
Market operators Sources: RemitScope survey 2018
  • Paying out remittances generally takes place at banks (which often have limited networks).
  • In some markets, such as Fiji, mobile money providers, such as Digicel, are providing a growing service.
  • On the sending side, MTOs dominate the market. Both Western Union and MoneyGram have a strong presence in the key sending markets and make use of agent networks, including post offices and retail networks (such as 7Eleven in Australia).
  • Corridor operators such as Imex, Klickex and Pacific Ezy are present in certain corridors, for example New Zealand to Tonga, and provide innovative services.
  • WorldRemit has also established a strong online presence in a short period of time.
Presence at the receiving end
Global MTO Number of countries where these companies are present (among the 18 Central Asia countries)
  Western Union
18 out of 18
  Money Gram
13 out of 18
6 out of 18
5 out of 18
  Xpress Money
6 out of 18
Regional MTO Number of countries where these companies are present (among the 18 Central Asia countries)
  Klickex Pacific
4 out of 18
  IMEX Money Transfer
4 out of 18
Main types of RSP
Receiving end
Bank (ATM)
Post offices
Mobile money providers
Other NBFI
Agent networks
Sending end
Post offices
Agent networks


Dominant Significant Emerging Marginal and/or not applicable
Transfer methods
  • Cash is still the main method to pay out remittances, although there are examples of new bank account crediting services.
  • Mobile money is present in a small number of markets, such as in Papua New Guinea.
  • There are currently no blockchain or cryptocurrency solutions for the subregion, largely because of de-risking challenges.


Dominant Significant Emerging Marginal and/or not applicable
  • The regulatory environment for paying out remittances has traditionally focused on permitting banks and MTOs. It generally allows for the use of agents (in 7 out of 11 countries).
  • Regulations that enable MNOs to operate are only present in three markets.
  • Innovation is increasingly present in the sending markets and new fintech solutions have been encouraged by regulators in both Malaysia and Singapore.
Types of entities allowed to distributed remittances Sources: RemitScope survey 2018
Number of countries
13 out of 18
12 out of 18
  Use of agents
8 out of 18
  Digital currency
3 out of 18
4 out of 18
Incidence of de-risking policies affecting remittance service providers
  • De-risking is a major challenge throughout this region. Many MTOs have had their accounts closed and it is difficult for potential new operators to establish a bank account.
  • This has led to a decline in competition from Australia and New Zealand to many Pacific Islands.
  • This phenomenon is having a major impact on some of the economies.
  • Efforts are being made by the IMF, World Bank and others to try to find a solution for this ongoing issue.
Low   Average   High  
INCLUSIVE FINANCIAL SERVICESSources: Findex survey 2014 (Pacific region countries not available)

Data concerning financial inclusion are not available for a number of Pacific markets.

Anecdotal evidence implies that financial inclusion is very low in many of the receiving island nations.

Both Australia and New Zealand have seasonal worker actions that incorporate a range of financial education and inclusion initiatives based around remittance transfers and have run the successful SendMoneyPacific programme since 2008.

1 Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)