Across the Asia-Pacific remittances are big business. With millions of workers leaving their native lands to seek better wages and working conditions abroad, much of those earnings eventually find their way into the pockets of families back home.
In 2018, these international wage earners sent nearly $300 billion in remittances to Asia-Pacific countries. The Philippines alone received $34 billion worth of remittance in 2018, accounting for nearly 10% of its nominal GDP.
Despite the large size of the remittance industry, until recently, remittances have been complex in nature and costly to transact. Banks offer remittance services but transfer fees are often expensive and given that weekly or daily amounts sent back by workers may not be very large, the fees may eat up a large portion of the remittance.
Besides, many workers and their families are ‘unbanked’, which is to say many have no access to bank transfer services. Instead, they rely on a network of remittance traders, bringing cash to counters and receiving a quote for the exchange and the fee, which again can be quite onerous.