Officially recorded annual remittances to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) reached a record high of $529 billion in 2018, according to the . This represents a 9.6 percent growth over the previous record high in 2017.
Regionally, growth in remittance inflows ranged from almost 7 percent in East Asia and the Pacific to 12 percent in South Asia. The overall increase was driven by a stronger economy and employment situation in the United States and a rebound in outward flows from some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Russian Federation.
With foreign direct investment (FDI) on a downward trend in recent years, remittances reached close to the level of FDI flows in 2018. Excluding China, remittances to LMICs ($462 billion) were significantly larger than FDI flows in 2018 ($344 billion). This makes remittances the largest source of foreign exchange earnings in the LMICs, excluding China.
Bearing in mind that the Brief uses officially recorded remittances data, if we were to include remittances through informal channels, its true size and social impact is much larger.
In 2019, remittance flows to LMICs are likely to reach $550 billion, to become their largest source of external financing—larger than FDI, including flows to China. Remittances are already more than three times the size of official development assistance.