Pandemic job losses trimmed dollars sent by expat Filipinos in January

DFA shares photo of returning overseas Filipinos from Qatar

Returning overseas Filipinos from Qatar. Photo from DFA

MANILA, Philippines — Dollars remitted by expatriate Filipinos declined slightly in the first month of 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic wore on — a marked departure from the trend of recent periods which saw strong remittance growth at the start of the year.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, personal remittances from the country’s overseas citizens reached $2.895 billion in January 2021. This was 1.7 percent lower than the $2.944 billion recorded in the same period last year.


The marginal decline in personal remittances during the month was attributed to the 2.4 percent drop in remittances from land-based workers with work contracts of one year or more to $2.219 billion from $2.274 billion recorded in January 2020.

Remittances from sea-based workers and land-based workers with work contracts of less than one year increased by 1 percent to $609 million in January 2021 from $603 million in January 2020.

Central bank records show usually robust January remittance growth, having risen 9.8 percent in 2014, 3.3 percent in 2015, 3.6 percent in 2016, 8.6 percent in 2017, 9.7 percent in 2018, 4.4 percent in 2019 and 6.6 percent in 2020, just a few weeks before a global pandemic was declared.

Officially, the pandemic has caused over 300,000 overseas Filipino workers to be repatriated by authorities last year, of which some 70 percent are land-based, while the balance work on ships. Unofficial estimates peg the number of Filipinos who have lost foreign jobs at as high as 500,000.

Meanwhile, overseas Filipinos’ cash remittances coursed through banks decreased by 1.7 percent to $2.603 billion in January 2021 from $2.648 billion in the comparable month a year ago.

In particular, cash remittances from land-based workers contracted by 2.4 percent to $2.044 billion, while that of sea-based workers increased marginally by 1 percent to $558 million.

country source, the United States registered the highest share to total remittances at 40.9 percent, followed by Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia and Taiwan. The combined remittances from these countries accounted for 78.2 percent of total cash remittances during the period.

According to the central bank, there are some limitations on the remittance data by source because a common practice of remittance centers in various cities abroad is to course these funds through correspondent banks, most of which are located in the US.

At the same time, remittances coursed through money couriers cannot be disaggregated by actual country source and are lodged under the country where the main offices are located, which, in many cases, is in the US.


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