Zenaida Aglipay, a Filipino who lives in Vantaa, just north of Helsinki, has worked in Finland for a couple of years. Every month she sends money home to her mother.
“For me it’s my mum, who is under medication, because she had a stroke,” she says. “So I’m supporting her medication.”
For countries such as the Philippines, Turkey and Egypt, one-tenth of GDP comes from cash remittances from abroad. The largest sums are sent to Asia and Africa, but in some Latin American and Caribbean countries they account for one quarter to one third of GDP.
According to Arno Tanner, a researcher at the Institute of Migration of Helsinki, remittances worldwide add up to more than 300 billion dollars a year, which is three times as much as total development cooperation aid spending.
During the economic downturn, the volume of payments sent to loved ones abroad has dropped by an estimated one fifth. This reflects the fact that recessions hit immigrants harder than natives.
Tanner notes that immigrants in low-paying jobs pay proportionally the most to the folks back home, some sending off more than half of what they earn. And women are more generous than men. People working in Finland send considerable amounts of money to Somalia, Estonia and Kosovo, for instance. However, while these remittances have likely declined, there are not enough immigrants in Finland to seriously affect the economy of any other country.