UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Money that migrant workers send to their families and homeland is far more valuable to developing countries than foreign aid and is expected to grow 6.3% this year, a new World Bank study said Wednesday.
Migrants are expected to send $414 billion in remittances home this year to developing countries, the study said, and the figure will likely surpass $500 billion by 2016.
That makes remittance funds almost four times more important to developing nations than official foreign aid from governments, which the United Nations says amounts to about $126 billion a year.
The current global total of remittances to all nations is $549 billion.
India gets $71 billion in remittances, the biggest benefactor from such funds. China got $60 billion, the Philippines $26 billion, Mexico $22 billion, Nigeria $21 billion and Egypt $20 billion.
Money sent home by migrants is crucial to some nations. Almost half of Tajikistan's gross domestic product comes from remittances, the study said. Kyrgyzstan gets 31% of its GDP from remittances; Lesotho and Nepal, 25%; and Moldova, 24%.
Growth of remittances has been robust all around the world except in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the recent recession in the United States hampered the regional economy.
Remittances should be encouraged to go through official channels, the World Bank said, but many migrants use informal methods to send money home.
This is partly the legacy of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terror attacks in 2001; the United States shut down many money-transfer offices as a way of cutting off potential fund sources for terrorists and worked with countries around the world to shut down fund-transfer agencies.
The World Bank said the cost of sending money now averages 9% of the transaction, and ways should be found to make it cheaper by working through official channels.
The U.N. says there were 232 million international migrants this year, up from 175 million in 2000.
The World Bank study comes on the eve of a two-day high-level meeting at the U.N. General Assembly on issues and problems involving migrants and development.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Wednesday that the conference will take up measures that "range from protecting the human rights of all migrants and eliminating migrant exploitation, to reducing the costs of migration, addressing the plight of migrant workers stranded as a result of humanitarian crises, and enhancing migrant partnerships and cooperation. "