Remittances and Payments

For more than a century, people have been moving from rural to urban areas, and across national borders in search of better opportunities. Of the over 250 million people currently living outside their countries of origin, approximately 200 million send remittances to their families back home. This money sent home by migrants represents a critical source of income for many people.

In 2017, $613 billion in remittances was sent worldwide, of which $466 billion went to developing countries, more than three times official development assistance. 

While most attention has focused on the aggregate flows of remittances, the amount that matters the most is not measured in millions or billions, but in the individual $200 or $300 sent home regularly. This amount represents 60 percent of total household income and, if leveraged, can effectively improve the living standards of migrants and their communities back home.

Remittances can therefore play an instrumental role in fostering financial inclusion, bringing more individuals into the financial system to achieve their personal financial goals. Through a better understanding of migrant workers and their needs, remittance flows could be leveraged to pull people out of poverty, to develop home countries’ economic infrastructure and to provide additional revenue streams for the financial sector.

This topic page also provides a number of resources on payments, more broadly defined as transfers from one actor to another, whether individuals, businesses, governments, or any combination of these groups. With the spread of mobile and other payments technologies in developing countries, payments are increasingly made electronically, making them safer, faster, and more efficient than in the past. Electronic payments have emerged as an important topic in financial inclusion because of the potential cost savings for poor people and those who transact with them.

The Microfinance Gateway has partnered with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to provide these resources on remittances. 

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Woman counting money. Photo by Sachin Bansal, 2013 CGAP Photo Contest.