Money that migrant workers send back home is far more valuable to developing countries than foreign aid and is expected to grow 6.3 per cent this year, a new World Bank study said on Wednesday.
Remittances outpace foreign aid by three to one.
Migrants are expected to send US$414 billion in remittances, and the figure will likely surpass US$500 billion by 2016.
That makes remittance funds almost four times more important to developing nations than official foreign aid from governments, which the United Nations says amounts to about US$126 billion a year.
The current global total of remittances to all nations is US$549 billion.
India gets US$71 billion in remittances, the biggest benefactor from such funds. China got US$60 billion, the Philippines US$26 billion, Mexico US$22 billion, Nigeria US$21 billion and Egypt US$20 billion.
Jamaica's US$2 billion of annual remittances represents 13.8 per cent of GDP, according to Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) data. Inflows for January to June 2013 amounted to US$1.02 billion, down 0.6 per cent year-on-year, the BOJ reported this week.
Among the economies most dependent on money transfers are Tajikistan, for which it represent about half of its gross domestic product, the study said. Kyrgyzstan gets 31 per cent of its GDP from remittances; Lesotho and Nepal, 25 per cent; and Moldova, 24 per cent.
Growth of remittances has been robust all around the world except in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the recent recession in the United States hampered the regional economy.
Remittances should be encouraged to go through official channels, the World Bank said, but many migrants use informal methods to send money home.
This is partly the legacy of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terror attacks in 2001. The United States shut down many money-transfer offices as a way of cutting off potential fund sources for terrorists and worked with countries around the world to shut down fund-transfer agencies.
The World Bank said the cost of sending money now averages nine per cent of the transaction, and ways should be found to make it cheaper by working through official channels.
The UN says there were 232 million international migrants this year, up from 175 million in 2000.