While South-South migration nearly equals South-North migration, rich countries are still the main remittances source, led by the U.S, according to the World Bank’s new Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008. The United States was also the top immigration country in 2005, with 38.4 million immigrants, followed by the Russian Federation (12.1 million), and Germany (10.1 million). Among low-income countries, India had the highest immigration volume (5.7 million), followed by Pakistan (3.3 million). The top five recipients of migrant remittances in 2007 were India ($27 billion), China ($25.7 billion), Mexico ($25 billion), the Philippines ($17 billion), and France ($12.5 billion).
The factbook provides snapshots of statistics on migration, recorded remittances flows, and skilled emigration for 194 countries, and 13 regional and income groups. Data from the factbook have been available online since November 2007, with updating done in real time as new data become available.
“Migration is sometimes used as a political pawn, and policies are too often based on anecdotes or misconceptions. By presenting the numbers and facts behind these stereotypes, this publication aims to paint a more objective picture of a crucial aspect of development,” explains Uri Dadush, Director of the World Bank’s Development Prospects Group and International Trade Department. Mr. Dadush also chairs the World Bank’s Working Group on Migration.
As migrant remittances have ballooned in size, they have caught the attention of high level policymakers. For 2007, recorded remittances flows worldwide are estimated at $318 billion, of which $240 billion went to developing countries (these data were highlighted in a November 30, 2007 World Bank news release). These flows do not include informal channels, which would significantly enlarge the volume of remittances if they were recorded.
“In many developing countries, remittances provide a life line for the poor,” said Dilip Ratha, senior economist, and author of the factbook with Zhimei Xu. “They are often an essential source of foreign exchange and a stabilizing force for the economy in turbulent times.”
While international migration is dominated by voluntary movement of people, there were 13.5 million refugees and asylum seekers, about 7 percent of global migrants, in 2005. The share of refugees in the population was 14.3 percent in low-income countries—over five times as large as that in high-income OECD countries. The Middle East and North Africa had the largest share of refugees and asylum seekers among immigrants (60 percent).
Fast facts on migration and remittances
* The top immigration countries, relative to population are Qatar (78 percent), the United Arab Emirates (71 percent), Kuwait (62 percent), Singapore (43 percent), Israel (40 percent), and Jordan (39 percent). The average share of immigrants in population is under 10 percent in high-income OECD countries.
* The Mexico–United States corridor is the largest migration corridor in the world, accounting for 10.4 million migrants by 2005. Migration corridors in the Former Soviet Union— Russia–Ukraine and Ukraine–Russia —are the next largest, followed by Bangladesh–India. In these corridors, natives became migrants without moving when new international boundaries were drawn.
* The volume of South–South migration is almost as large as that of South–North migration, which accounts for 47 percent of the total emigration from developing countries. South–South migration is larger than South–North migration in Sub-Saharan Africa (72 percent), Europe and Central Asia (64 percent), and South Asia (54 percent).
* Smaller countries tend to have higher rates of skilled emigration. Almost all the physicians trained in Grenada and Dominica have emigrated abroad. St. Lucia, Cape Verde, Fiji, São Tomé and Principe, and Liberia are also among the countries with the highest emigration rates of physicians.
* In 2007, the top recipient countries of recorded remittances were India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and France. As a share of GDP, however, smaller countries such as Tajikistan (36 percent), Moldova (36 percent), Tonga (32 percent), the Kyrgyz Republic (27 percent), and Honduras (26 percent) were the largest recipients in 2006.
* Rich countries are the main source of remittances. The United States is by far the largest, with $42 billion in recorded outward flows in 2006. Saudi Arabia ranks as the second largest, followed by Switzerland and Germany.
The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008 can be viewed online at: www.worldbank.org/prospects/migrationandremittances