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The main sources of official data on migrants' remittances are the annual balance of payments records of countries, which are compiled in the Balance of Payments Yearbook published annually by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For more information on remittances from the United States based on this data, see this issue's Spotlight.
In migration literature, the term "migrant remittances" has generally come to refer to the transfers in cash or in kind from a migrant to household residents in the county of origin. However, the IMF data presented in the tables below are based on a much broader definition and include three categories of data:
- Workers' remittances refer to transfers in cash or in kind from migrants to resident households in the countries of origin. Usually these are ongoing transfers between members of the same family, with persons abroad being absent for a year or longer.
- Compensation to employees refers to the wages, salaries, and other remuneration, in cash or in kind, paid to individuals who work in a country other than where they legally reside. For example, the wages earned by seasonal or other short-term migrant workers (i.e., abroad for less than a year) would be included in this category, as well as border workers who work, but do not reside, in a neighboring country. It also includes wages and salaries earned by the local staff of foreign institutions, such as embassies and international organizations, and companies based abroad but operating locally.
- Migrants' transfers refer to capital transfers of financial assets made by migrants as they move from one country to another and stay for more than one year.
The data provided in the tables below show the total remittances, which is the sum of the values of the three IMF categories defined above.
While the categories used by the IMF are well defined, there are several problems associated with their implementation worldwide that can affect their comparability. The data have serious limitations and the estimates obtained should be interpreted with caution. On the one hand, official remittance figures may underestimate the size of flows because they fail to capture informal remittance transfers, including sending cash back with returning migrants or by carrying cash and/or goods when migrants return home. On the other hand, official remittance figures may also overestimate the size of the flows. Other types of monetary transfers -- including illicit ones -- cannot always be distinguished from remittances.
The information presented here is derived from "Measurement of Remittances," pp. 321-362 in Bilsborrow et al., 1997, International Migration Statistics: Guidelines for Improving Data Collection Systems (Geneva: International Labour Office).
- Top 15 countries with the highest total remittances received, 2001
- Top 15 countries with the highest total remittances received as a percentage of the GDP, 2001
- Top 15 countries with the highest total remittances received per capita, 2001
Table 1. Top fifteen countries with the highest total remittances received, 2001
Table 2. Top fifteen countries with the highest total remittances received as a percentage of the GDP, 2001
Table 3. Top fifteen countries with the highest total remittances received per capita, 2001