The World Bank on Wednesday said remittances to India are estimated to drop by 23% from $83 billion (approximately Rs 6,345 crore) in 2019 to $64 billion (approximately Rs 4,892 crore) this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, global remittances are set to tumble by 20% to $142 billion (approximately Rs 10,855 crore) in 2020, the sharpest drop in recent history, due to a fall in wages and employment of migrant workers.

“Remittances are a vital source of income for developing countries,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said in a statement. “The ongoing economic recession caused by Covid-19 is taking a severe toll on the ability to send money home and makes it all the more vital that we shorten the time to recovery for advanced economies.”

“In India, remittances are projected to fall by about 23% in 2020, to $64 billion a striking contrast with the growth of 5.5% and receipts of $83 billion seen in 2019,” the World Bank said in a report titled “Covid-19 crisis through a migration lens”.

The sharpest decline was estimated for Europe and Central Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were next in terms of projected declines. “The coronavirus‐related global slowdown and travel restrictions will also affect migratory movements, and this is likely to keep remittances subdued even in 2021,” the report said.

Remittances have become an integral part of funding for governments in emerging economies. “They help families afford food, healthcare, and basic needs,” Malpass added. “As the World Bank Group implements fast, broad action to support countries, we are working to keep remittance channels open and safeguard the poorest communities’ access to these most basic needs.”

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40 million migrants impacted due to lockdown

Meanwhile, the World Bank report said the nationwide lockdown to contain coronavirus spread in India has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants in the country. The lockdown, which was imposed on March 25 and was supposed to end on April 14, has been extended till May 3.

“Around 50,000–60,000 moved from urban centers to rural areas of origin in the span of a few days,” the World Bank said. “The government set up camps with basic provisions to provide shelter to these migrants in cities and districts of destination, transit, and origin.”

The report also added that the magnitude of internal migration is about two-and-a-half times that of international migration.

An estimated 1 billion migrants some 270 million who work outside their home countries and 760 million internal migrants help feed, clothe and shelter up to three people back home, Dilip Ratha, lead author of the World Bank’s report told Reuters. “You’re looking at one-third of humanity,” she added. “Yet such workers tend to be more vulnerable during crises.”

The report noted that government policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic have largely excluded migrants and their families back home. “But there is a strong case for including migrants in the near‐term health strategies of all countries, given the externalities associated with the health status of an entire population in the face of a highly contagious pandemic,” it added.

India has so far recorded 21,373 coronavirus cases and 681 deaths, according to the health ministry data. Meanwhile, the worldwide toll from the coronavirus pandemic crossed 1,83,280 and more than 2,626,920 declared cases have been registered in 185 countries and territories since the disease first emerged in China late last year.