Mapped: The Ins and Outs of Remittance Flows
The global immigrant population is growing at a robust pace, and their aggregate force is one to be reckoned with. In 2019, migrants collectively sent $550.5 billion in money back to their home countries—money transfer flows that are also known as remittances.
Remittances serve as an economic lifeline around the world, particularly for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Today’s visualization relies on the latest data from the World Bank to create a snapshot of these global remittance flows.
Where do most of these remittances come from, and which countries are the biggest recipients?
Remittances: An Origin Story
Remittances are a type of capital flow, with significant impacts on the places they wind up. These money transfers have surpassed official aid being sent to LMICs for decades, and in this day and age, are rivaling even Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows.
Remittance flows mainly help improve basic living standards such as housing, healthcare, and education, with leftover funds going towards other parts of the economy. They can also be a means for increasing the social mobility of family and friends back home.
Altogether, 50% of remittances are sent in either U.S. dollars, or the closely-linked currencies of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, such as the Saudi riyal. It’s not surprising then, that the U.S. is the biggest origin country of remittances, contributing $68.5 billion in 2018—more than double that of the next-highest country, Saudi Arabia, at $33.6 billion.
Remittance Flows As A Safety Net
The impact of remittances on LMICs can vary depending on what you measure. In absolute terms, the top 10 LMIC recipients received $350 billion, or nearly 64% of total remittances in 2019.
Top Remittance Recipients in 2019 (USD)
|Rank||Country||Remittance Inflows||% of Nominal GDP|
India tops the chart as the largest remittances beneficiary, followed by China and Mexico. Interestingly, these three countries are also the main destinations of remittance flows from the U.S., but in the reverse order. Mexico and the U.S. have one of the most interconnected remittance corridors in the world.
However, the chart above makes it clear that simply counting the dollars is only one part of the picture. Despite these multi-billion dollar numbers, remittances are equal to only a fraction of these economies.
By looking at remittances as a percentage of nominal GDP, it’s clear that they can have an outsize impact on nations, even if the overall value of flows are much lower in comparison.
Top Remittance Recipients in 2019 (% of GDP)
|Rank||Country||Remittance Inflows||% of Nominal GDP|
|#5||🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic||$2.4B||29.6%|
|#7||🇸🇻 El Salvador||$5.6B||20.8%|
|#10||🇵🇸 West Bank and Gaza||$2.6B||17.6%|
It’s clear that the cash influxes provided by remittances are crucial to many smaller countries. Take the Polynesian archipelago of Tonga, for example: even though it only saw $190 million in remittances from abroad, that amount accounts for nearly 40% of the country’s nominal GDP.
Will The Remittance Tides Turn?
The World Bank projects remittance flows to increase to nearly $600 billion by 2021. But are such projections of future remittance flows reliable? The researchers offer two reasons why remittances may ebb and flow.
On one hand, anti-immigration sentiment across major economies could complicate this growth, as evidenced by Brexit. The good news? That doesn’t stop immigration itself from taking place. Instead, where these migrants and their money end up, are constantly in flux.
This means that as immigration steadily grows, so will remittance flows. What’s more, fintech innovations have the potential to bolster this progress, by making money transfers cheaper and easier to access.
Tackling [high transaction costs] is crucial not only for economic and social development, but also for improving financial inclusion.
—UN ESCAP, Oct 2019
The World’s Gold and Silver Coin Production vs. Money Creation
In 2019, the value of global money creation was over 500 times higher than the world’s gold and silver coin production combined.
Global Gold & Silver Coin Production vs. Money Creation
Note: Data has been updated to correct a previous calculation error pertaining to Japanese Yen money supply.
Both precious metals and cash serve as safe haven assets, intended to limit losses during market turmoil. However, while modern currencies can be printed by central governments, precious metals derive value from their scarcity.
In this infographic from Texas Precious Metals, we compare the value of the world’s gold and silver coin production to global money creation.
Total Production Per Person, 2019
We calculated the value of global currency issuance in 2019 as well as precious metal coins minted, and divided by the global population to get total production per person.
Throughout, global money supply is a proxy based on the 5 largest reserve currencies: the U.S. dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, Sterling Pound, and Chinese Renminbi.
|2019 Production||Ounces||Dollar Value||Dollar Value Per Person|
|Global Gold Coins||7,204,982||$10.9B||$1.42|
|Global Silver Coins||97,900,000||$1.8B||$0.23|
|Global Money Supply||$4.3T||$556.33|
All numbers are in USD according to exchange rates as of December 31 2019. Gold and silver values are based on the 2019 year close price of $1,510.60 and $17.90 respectively.
The value of new global money supply was 390 times higher than the value of gold coins minted, and 2,400 times higher than silver coins minted.
Put another way, for each ounce of minted gold coin, the global money supply increased by more than $593,000.
Change in Annual Production, 2019 vs. 2010
Compared to the start of the decade, here’s how annual production levels have changed:
|Global Silver Coins (oz)||95,900,000||97,900,000||2.1%|
|Global Gold Coins (oz)||6,298,331||7,204,982||14.4%|
|Global Money Supply (USD)||$2,936,296,692,440||$4,268,993,639,926||45.4%|
Annual increases to global money supply have increased by half, far outpacing the change in the world’s gold and silver coin production.
Even more recently, how has production changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 Effect
In response to the global pandemic, central banks have enacted numerous measures to help support economies—including issuing new currency.
The global money supply increased by more than $6.8 trillion in the first half of 2020. In fact, the value of printed currency was 930 times higher than the value of minted gold coins over the same timeframe.
Investors may want to consider which asset is more vulnerable to inflation as they look to protect their portfolios.
Want to learn more? See the U.S. version of this graphic.
Visualizing U.S. Money Supply vs. Precious Metal Production in the COVID-19 Era
Amid trillions in COVID-19 stimulus, this graphic compares new U.S. dollars printed to U.S. precious metal coin production.
U.S. Precious Metal Coin Production in the COVID-19 Era
Gold and silver have played an important role in money throughout history. Unlike modern currencies, they can’t be created out of thin air and derive value from their scarcity.
In the COVID-19 era, this difference has become more prominent as countries print vast amounts of currency to support their suffering economies. This graphic from Texas Precious Metals highlights how the value of U.S. precious metal coin production compares to U.S. money creation.
Year to Date Production
In this infographic, we have calculated the value of money supply added as well as bullion minted, and divided it by the U.S. population to get total production per person. Here’s how the January-September 2020 data breaks down:
|Total (Ounces)||Dollar Value||Dollar Value Per Person|
|U.S. Gold Ounces||826,000||$1.6B||$4.79|
|U.S. Silver Ounces||22,261,500||$544M||$1.65|
|U.S. Money Supply||$3.4T||$10,250.16|
Gold and silver dollar values based on Oct 5, 2020 spot prices of $1,915.93 and $24.47 respectively.
The value of new U.S. money supply was more than 2,100 times higher than the value of new gold minted. Compared to minted silver, the value of new U.S. money supply was over 6,000 times higher.
Production Per Day, Per State Over Time
Here’s how production has changed on a per day, per state basis since 2010:
|2010||2020 YTD (Jan-Sep)||Min-Max Production, 2010-2019|
|Minted Gold Coins||78oz||61oz||12oz-78oz|
|Minted Silver Coins||1,945oz||1,631oz||899oz-2,633oz|
Year to date, U.S. precious metal coin production is within a normal historical range. If production were to continue at the current rate through December, gold would be above historical norms at 81 ounces and silver would be within the normal range at 2,175 ounces.
The issuance of U.S. dollars tells a different story. Over the last nine months, the U.S. has already added 400% more dollars to its money supply than it did in the entirety of 2019—and there’s still three months left to go in the year.
A Macroeconomic View
Of course, current economic conditions have been a catalyst for the ballooning money supply. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has issued over $3 trillion in fiscal stimulus. In turn, the U.S. Federal Reserve has increased the money supply by $3.4 trillion from January to September 2020.
Put another way, for every ounce of gold created in 2020 there has been $4 million U.S. dollars added to the money supply.
The question for those looking for safe haven investments is: which of these will ultimately hold their value better?
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