Remittances from abroad are major economic assets for some developing countries

Source: Pew Research Center

Globally in 2016, people living abroad sent an estimated $574 billion back to their home countries. Such remittances can be important economic resources, especially to developing countries: Remittance flows into these nations are more than three times that of official development aid, according to a 2016 World Bank report. They also tend to be more stable than other kinds of external capital flows, such as private investment or development aid.

For five countries, in fact, remittances from citizens abroad are equivalent to a quarter or more of all economic output (as measured by gross domestic product, or GDP). Nepal received an estimated $6.6 billion in remittances, equivalent to 31.3% of its GDP, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of World Bank data for 2016. Kyrgyzstan, also in Central Asia, received nearly $2 billion in remittances, equivalent to 30.4% of GDP; neighboring Tajikistan received about $1.9 billion (equal to 26.9% of GDP). Remittances from abroad also equaled more than a quarter of GDP for Haiti and Liberia; in nine other countries they were equivalent to between 15% and 25% of GDP.

View our updated interactive to see the estimated inflows and outflows of money sent by migrants around the world in 2016.

The significance of remittances to a country’s overall economy depends not just on the amount of the remittances, but the size of the economy. According to the World Bank estimates, India received the most remittances in 2016 by sheer dollar amount: $62.7 billion, just ahead of the $61 billion received by second-place China. But those billions – most of which came from Indians working in the United States or the Arabian Peninsula – were equal to just 2.8% of GDP, making them a just a drop in India’s $2.3 trillion economic bucket.

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