Myanmar's remittance economy

Project Active from to State

Economic challenges within Myanmar over the past half-century have led to a large emigration of workers to neighbouring countries such as Thailand. Here economic opportunities are greater, wages higher, and demand for less skilled labour larger – all acting as pull factors for migrants. As a result, Myanmar has become the largest migration source country in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, creating a large flow of remittances into the country. These remittances act as an important source of external finance and existing literature documents the role of remittances in reducing the poverty levels of migrants and their families.

Currently, the vast majority of remittances enter Myanmar through informal channels, making systematic information on the volume, sources, and frequencies of these inflows sparse. Data on the origins, demographics, and financial activities of migrants is missing and weakens the government’s ability to adequately measure remittances. Without this information, developing a scheme to bring remittances into the formal economy becomes very challenging. This also makes it harder for the government to develop migrant support policies. Uncovering some of these details will help develop a strategy for how the government can best take advantage of these remittance flows.

This study aims to better understand international migrant remittances into Myanmar by addressing four broad questions:

  1. What do we know about migration and remittances based on existing data?
  2. What are the critical gaps in existing data that need to be addressed?
  3. How can these gaps be filled?
  4. What policies can help shift remittances from the informal to the formal economy?

By first looking at the available data and identifying areas for improvement the project will help set a list of priorities for future data collection. Then, drawing from the literature and international experiences with remittances, the project will consider various options for how the Myanmar government can fill some of these gaps. Lastly, it will build off of case studies on remittance formalisation from the Philippines and Sri Lanka to arrive at a set of policy options for Myanmar to consider.