Remittances from immigrants and migrant workers in Canada to family or for investments back home is a booming business
Every day, thousands of immigrants and migrant workers in Metro Vancouver head to the nearest money transfer outlet to send money home — often to needy family members, sometimes to invest.
These outlets, more often called remittance centres, are on almost every commercial street in Metro — in grocery stores, hair salons, florists, post-office outlets, Safeways, Walmarts and even sports bars.
Some are neat and tidy, some are run down. These remittance centres are the unassuming face of a globalized money transfer industry that has tripled in value in a decade — to $529 billion a year, according to the World Bank.
A recent Simon Fraser University study found more than 300 MoneyMart and Western Union remittance outlets in Metro Vancouver alone. That doesn’t include the many independent remittance centres, operating in dozens of languages.
The amount of money that leaves Canada in remittances is staggering. At $24 billion a year in 2012, according to the World Bank, the sum is equivalent to the annual budgets of 12 Universities of British Columbia. Or enough to buy 70 of Vancouver’s tallest building, the Shangri-La tower.
A Pew Research Center survey reveals immigrants to Canada, and especially temporary foreign workers, send more dollars per capita in remittances out of Canada than immigrants and migrant workers in almost any other nation, including the U.S., Germany and Britain.
The top countries receiving Canadian remittances are middle-income nations — China (which receives $3.9 billion), India ($3.5 billion) and the Philippines ($2 billion). Remittances also often go to poor countries. And sometimes to wealthy ones, to support family or invest in the country of origin.
After China, India and the Philippines, the countries receiving the most Canadian remittances are Britain, France, Lebanon, Vietnam, Germany, Italy and South Korea.
Effects of globalization
Researchers are increasingly assessing the pros and cons of the giant remittance industry — as globalization causes the volume of migrants to rapidly expand.
The United Nations says there are 230 million migrants, people living in countries in which they were not born.
Canada has more than seven million immigrants, who make up 21 per cent of the population (compared to 14 per cent in the U.S.). In Metro Vancouver, 45 per cent of residents are foreign born.
Many who send home remittances are “circular migrants” who move back and forth between their high-income host country and generally low-income homeland. The World Bank says these temporary foreign workers (whose numbers have tripled in Canada, to more than 400,000, under the Conservative government) are responsible for two-thirds of all remittances.
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