World Bank: OFWs spend up to $22 to send home $500, $14 to wire $200

By Ernesto Herrera

Migrant Filipino workers in the United States spend an average of $12.79 to send $500 home to their families in the Philippines, or an average of $11.45 to remit $200.

Filipino workers in the United Kingdom shell out an average of $17.75 to wire $500, or $14.40 to transfer $200.

Those in Italy spend an average of $22.28 to send $500, or $19.05 to remit $200, while those in Germany pay out an average of $13.06 to forward $500, or $11.07 to convey $200.

Those in Spain have to shell out an average of $12.42 to dispatch $500, or $10.64 to transfer $200.

Meanwhile, Filipino workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spend an average of $6.93, whether they transmit $500 or $200.

These average remittance costs were disclosed Sunday by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), based on a World Bank study of global money transfer charges as of the first quarter of 2009.

TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera described the average remittance costs as “oppressive and burdensome.”

“They are definitely excessive, considering that in this day and age of modern technologies, seamless and cost-efficient money transfers are already possible through such platforms as the Internet and international mobile telephone short-messaging,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

He said any potential savings realized by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from lower remittance charges would surely allow more funds to flow into the Philippine economy.

Herrera said the Philippines should combine forces with other top remittance-receiving countries such as India and Mexico, and find ways to step up pressure so that multinational banks would reduce their money transfer fees.

Annual remittances from OFWs have steadily grown from just $105 million in 1975 to a whopping $16.426 billion in 2008, making the Philippines the world’s fourth-biggest collector of money from migrant workers.

In the five months to May this year, remittances from OFWs reached $6.98 billion, up $190 million or 2.8 percent compared to the $6.79 billion they wired home in the same five-month period in 2008.

Western Hemisphere leaders, at the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterey, Mexico, way back in January 2004, had called for the cost of remittances to be cut in half.

This call was echoed by the finance and central bank chiefs of the Group of Seven (the U.S., the U.K, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan), who also declared in April 2004 that, “on remittances, we will continue to work on our initiatives to reduce barriers that raise the cost of sending them and integrate remittance services in the formal financial sector.”

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