30 June 2010

The meaning of migration

Honduras has a population of about 7.3 million people, and many of them have migrated to the United States. These migrants send a lot of money back to their families; they also return to the country, bringing both money and experience from El Norte.

Regardless of the politics and policies of each country, it's important to acknowledge the importance of remittances -- which can be quantified -- and information flows, which cannot.

According the the Economist Intelligence Unit:
Remittances from Hondurans living abroad more than trebled between 2002 and 2007, reaching US$2.5bn, equivalent to more than 20% of GDP, making remittances Honduras's largest single source of foreign exchange.
How much is $2.5 billion? It's most of the difference between Honduras's 2008 exports ($5.6 billion) and imports ($8.6 billion) in 2008. In other words, Honduras sends coffee, bananas and people abroad, in exchange for cars, oil, cellular phones, and other things they want at home. Without migration, they would be much worse off, and that's not even considering the value of knowledge and wisdom that passes from extranjeros back to their friends and family.

Bottom Line: Migration is very important to the development and quality of life in less-developed countries.

3 comments:

  1. I'm surprised remittances aren't already included in the exports number. After all, isn't that just Honduras exporting labor?

    It seems like many of the hangups people have about (especially illegal) immigration would be alleviated a bit if they looked at it for what it really is... an export.

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  2. Lant Pritchett has contributed a lot to this debate from an interesting (extreme, some would say) point of view: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/fs/lpritch/LaborMobility_Papers.html

    Other research clearly shows that migration&remittances decrease inequality and poverty in sending communities -- especially in the long run, when the indirect effects through investment and education come into play.

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  3. DW emails: "This holds true for Mexico as well. Without remittances from relatives working in the US, many farm villages in Mexico would go bust. "

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