Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pace of worldwide migration slowing -- UN report

First posted 06:45am (Mla time)
April 05, 2006 Agence France-Presse

UNITED NATIONS -- The number of migrants worldwide rose by only 36 million to 191 million during the 1990-2005 period, a much slower pace than in the previous 15 years, according to a UN report released Tuesday.

The increase compares with a rise of 41 million, from a lower population base, to 175 million during the 1975-1990 period, according to the Report on World Population Monitoring, the first comprehensive global count in five years.

But the report said that migration had become increasingly important to population growth in developed countries.

The developed world, led by the United States, still takes in the larger share of the world's migrants, up to 61 percent last year, compared with 53 percent in 1990, the study showed.

The report noted that because of low fertility, net migration today accounted for 75 percent of the population growth in the developed world.

"If current trends continue, between 2010 and 2030 net migration will likely be responsible
for all the population growth in those regions," it said.

Last year 64 million migrants lived in Europe, 44.5 million in North America, 4.7 million in Australia and New Zealand and two million in Japan.

The migrant population of the developing world meanwhile has risen a mere three million since 1990, totaling 75 million last year, including 51 million in Asia, 17 million in Africa and seven million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report, discussed here this week at a session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, concluded that family reunification accounted for a major share of the migration flow to North America and Europe, although the share of labor migration and skilled migration also rose.

It described the net economic impact of international migration as generally positive for host countries.
"Although the presence of international migrants may have a small adverse effect on the wages of non-migrants or may raise unemployment when wages are rigid, such effects are small at the national level," it noted.

"Over the medium and long term, migration can generate employment and produce net fiscal gains," it added.
The report said that in 2004, official migrant remittances totaled 226 billion dollars, including 160 billion which went to developing countries.

Such remittances benefited the low- and middle-income families that receive them and enabled migrant households to invest in income-generating activities. They also served to ease foreign exchange constraints and cut the cost of borrowing for countries of origin.

The report warned that while the departure of large numbers of skilled personnel was hurting small developing countries, "skilled migrants who maintain ties with their countries of origin may stimulate the transfer of technology and capital."

"Countries of origin have become more proactive in encouraging the return of citizens living abroad and in maintaining ties with expatriate communities so as to harness the positive effects that migration can have on development," it said.

While the report emphasized the huge role of international migration in a developed country’s population growth, it warned that this cannot reverse general population aging and forestall overall population decline unless its volume rises substantially.

"Net migration to Europe, for instance, would have to increase fourfold to maintain constant the size of the working-age population," it said.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

RP AMONG TOP 5, Migrant workers sent home $167B last year, says UN

First posted 01:09am (Mla time) April 01, 2006
Agence France-Presse
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the April 1, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SINGAPORE—Migrant workers in high-income countries remitted a record of more than $167 billion to their families last year, a UN agency said as it called for measures to ensure the money is used for long-term development.

In countries including Bangladesh and the Philippines, annual remittances exceed official development aid and foreign direct investments, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) said in its latest report released here Thursday.

If remittances sent through informal channels are counted, the figures could rise by as much as 50 percent, the UN's economic and social arm said.

As of 2004, three of the top five remittance-receiving countries in the world were located in Asia-India which received $21.3 billion, China with $21.7 billion and the Philippines with $11.6 billion, the report said.
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also among the major recipients of remittances, while Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Thailand and the Pacific island of Samoa benefit to a lesser extent.

The agency urged governments in recipient countries to cut the costs of sending money home and help the workers' families channel the funds into more productive endeavors.

Countries exporting migrant workers should also take steps to improve their skills and tighten policies to ensure they do not fall prey to unscrupulous recruitment agencies, Unescap said.

"Policy-makers need to recognize that remittances are private flows of money that need to be treated as such. Therefore, these flows should not be taxed," it said.

The money has already been taxed in the country of origin and imposing taxes will discourage workers from sending funds through the banking system, it added.

'Very high' fees

It noted that levies charged by remittance service providers "are very high," with fees for small transfers reaching as high as 10-15 percent.

"There is no doubt that more can be done to increase the volume of home remittances and to enable the recipients to use them more effectively," Unescap said.

"Additional measures should be taken to increase the access of poor migrant workers and their families to formal financial institutions."

Unescap urged banks in the workers' home countries to establish branches in host nations and allow micro-credit institutions and credit unions to transfer funds to rural households.

The agency also said governments should give the right information about job opportunities to prevent situations in which families borrow huge sums to send a worker abroad, only to discover that the earnings are not enough to recover the cost.

Major sources

In the Asia Pacific region, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore are major sources of remittances for developing countries.

For Laos and Burma, neighboring Thailand is a key sources of workers' remittances, Unescap said.
Outside the region, Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are the main source of foreign workers' remittances.

An increasing number of remittance-senders are women, it noted. Agence France-Presse