Last year, migrant workers sent US$ 256 billion to their families in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the report “RemitSCOPE – Remittance markets and opportunities – Asia and the Pacific” and a new webportal on remittances released today by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). While remittances benefit about 320 million family members in the region, most of them in rural areas, remittance markets still need to transform to ensure that families can benefit fully from the flows.
”The promise of technological innovation in the remittance marketplace could bring about a fundamental transformation for hundreds of millions benefiting from these flows. But this transformative change has not yet happened,” says Pedro De Vasconcelos, IFAD Senior remittance expert.
In addition, De Vasconcelos pointed out that outdated regulatory barriers on both sending and receiving ends result in higher and less transparent costs for the 2 billion transactions a year – most amounting to just US$200 to US$300 each. They also make it less likely and more difficult to convert remittances into savings and investments.
According to the report, the cost of sending money to the region has decreased by only 0.67 percent since 2015, reaching 6.86 percent in 2017. This is still more than twice the 3 per cent set for high volume corridors by the international community in its Sustainable Development Goals. Lower transfer costs mean more money available to families.
Transfer costs vary significantly across the region. Rates in small Pacific island states are higher at 8.9 percent of the amount sent. In East Asia they are 8.26 percent while corridors from the Russian Federation to Central Asia are extremely low at 1.21 percent.
According to the report, cash-to-cash transactions remain by far the most common form of transfer. It is only recently that technology is beginning to move markets towards account-to-account transfers through digital operations. There are now more than 1 million payment locations through the region, reflecting a greater digitalization of transactions.
But De Vasconcelos explains further efforts are needed. “For digitalization of transfers to happen, regulators and private sector companies need to work further together to harmonize legal and regulatory frameworks between countries and support the design of products driven by customer needs,” he said.
In the region, families generally spent about 70 percent of remittances to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing, healthcare and education. The remaining 30 percent, amounting to $77 billion, could be saved and invested in asset-building or income-generating activities, helping families to build livelihoods and their future, according to De Vasconcelos.
“If you give people the opportunity to invest, they will invest, but for that, access to financial services is key, and still too many families, in particular in rural areas, cannot save, borrow and invest money through proper financial services,” said De Vasconcelos.
Although financial inclusion has increased since 2011 with half of adults in the region having a bank account (excluding high-income economies) this does not represent the reality of the substantial majority of remittance receiving families where financial exclusion remains predominant.
Remittances are particularly crucial in rural areas where poverty is the highest. Worldwide, an estimated 40 percent of the total value of remittances go to rural areas. However, in the Asia- Pacific region, remittances go disproportionally to countries with a majority of rural populations such as Nepal (81%), India (67%), Viet Nam (66%), Bangladesh (65%), Pakistan (61%) and the Philippines (56%). Remittances to rural areas are generally costlier due to expenses associated with offering access points in distant locations.
Key facts from the report:
- Remittances to the Asia-Pacific region amounted to US$ 256 billion in 2017 representing 53 percent of flows worldwide. They have grown by 4.87 percent since 2008, with rates flattening in recent years.
- India (US$69 billion), China (US$64 billion) and the Philippines (US$33 billion) are the three largest remittance-receiving countries in the world. Pakistan (US$20 billion), and Viet Nam (US$14 billion) are also in the top 10.
- About 70 percent of remittances sent to Asia and the Pacific come from outside the region and in particular from the Gulf States (32 percent), North America (26 percent) and Europe (12 percent).
- Remittances contribute to the region more than 10 times the official development assistance in the region.
- In the region, 400 million people, one out of every 10 people, are directly affected by remittances either as a sender or as a receiver.
- Around US$6 trillion in remittances are expected to be sent to developing countries by 2030: over half of these flows will arrive in the Asia Pacific regions, very often in small towns and villages.
- Increasingly the majority of migrants (60 percent) now find work in the region with Hong-Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand being major destinations for migrant workers.
- Remittance outflows from the region amount to US$78 billion, and 93 percent of the flows remain in the region.
Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development
“Remitscope” will be presented at the Global Forum on Remittances, Investments and Development – Asia Pacific to take place in Kuala Lumpur on 8-10 May. The forum will bring together more than 300 policymakers, private sector stakeholders and civil society leaders to map out the road ahead for enhanced remittances.
RemitSCOPE webportal: The report is a synthesis of the latest remittance data and analysis and remittance-market profiles on 50 individual countries available at www.remitscope.org. The ambition of this new webportal is to help decision-makers and industry transform remittances markets for cheaper, faster and safer transactions, in particular for rural areas.
Dealing with the loneliness crisis with assistive technology
By Karen Dolva, CEO and Co-Founder of NoIsolation
Humans are social beings, and for most children, school will be their most important social arena. Unfortunately, however, many children and adolescents with long-term illnesses are unable to attend school for extended periods, due to treatment plans, ill health or more recently due to the risk of infection. Research has shown that long-stints of school absence for children and adolescents with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and cancer can range from months to years.
These prolonged periods of absence, which often lead to limited interactions with other children and adolescents, can result in children completely losing their social network, leaving them feeling cut off, lonely and isolated, all as a result of something that is completely out of their control. What kind of consequences can this type of social isolation have for children and young adults?
In a recent in-depth investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on the emotional and educational development of British school-aged children, No Isolation partnered with independent researcher, Henry Peck, to look into the impact of COVID-19 on school aged children, to shed further light on the consequences of school closures, not only across the UK, but the long term effects that this can have on children and adolescents everywhere throughout the pandemic.
As a company working to abolish loneliness and isolation amongst those suffering with chronic illness, we were already aware of the effect that social isolation can have on a child’s educational development and mental health. For the investigation we collected responses from 1,005 parents and carers of 1,477 children spanning primary and secondary school.
Results of the study found that a concerning 76% of parents and carers reported that, since lockdown, they have become worried that their children are suffering from loneliness. Results also showed that parents and carers of 5-10-year-olds worry that their children are lonely often or all of the time, whilst parents and carers of 11-16-year-olds are concerned that their children are lonely at least some of the time. This is likely due to the fact that older children have greater access to social technologies, while younger children often rely on non-verbal forms of communication such as facial expression, physical contact, and through play, all of which is difficult to recreate whilst away from the school setting.
At No Isolation we are committed to creating solutions that will help children stay connected to their friends and their education, regardless of circumstance. We’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact that loneliness can have on a child, and know that children that can’t attend school don’t just miss out on learning, they miss out on friendships too. Losing this contact during the early years developmental stages can be devastating, leading to anxiousness and an increase in feelings of isolation. This report sheds light on the hundreds of thousands of young people that may not be able to rejoin their friends in school, and it is vital that they don’t fall through the cracks. We plan to continue researching the impact of this unprecedented pandemic and driving the conversation around how we, as a nation, can ensure the mental wellbeing and educational development of those most affected.
Loneliness has been found to have serious implications for both physical and mental health. People suffering from loneliness are 32% more likely to have a stroke and are 26% more at risk of early mortality. From No Isolation’s own research into the impact of school absence due to long-term illness, we have found that children are particularly vulnerable to loneliness if they cannot attend school.
Researchers, Perlman and Peplau, define loneliness as a negative feeling, stating that a lonely person is experiencing a discrepancy between desired and actual social contact. Being socially isolated is not synonymous with being lonely, but there will often be a correlation between social isolation and loneliness. Though much empirical research on adults and adolescents shows a link between loneliness and depression, many studies have found that friendship-related loneliness is more explanatory for depressive symptoms among adolescents than parent-related loneliness. One possible explanation is that friends are the preferred source of social support during adolescence.
With that in mind, we should be both sad and alarmed by the high numbers of young people unable to attend school, and more so by the fact that we do not really know who they are or exactly why they cannot go to school. Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness often correlate with mental disorders, including depressive disorders, there are, however, options available for children and adolescents in the form of assistive technologies, enabling them to stay connected with education and their peers.
The provision of dedicated school staff, inspirational hospital schools, the use of avatars like AV1 that enable children to attend school remotely, are just a few of the ways that assistive technology and exemplary attitudes are helping children with long-term illnesses from becoming disconnected from essential social networks. There are also examples of individuals who are pushing to keep children from falling between the cracks and becoming invisible, such as Amy Dixon, who is running a petition that will do exactly that, bringing these issues to the attention of those who can make a real change. It is, and will be, thanks to these exemplary changes that more support is being offered to children that are virtually invisible across the UK at present.
However, not all children have the option to receive these kinds of provision. There are pockets of excellent practice driven on an individual and local level, but there needs to be systemic change at a policy level, to ensure everyone is supported.
Educational provision for children out of school due to illness appears to be something of a postcode lottery, with some families having to fight for 3 hours of home tuition a week, whilst others are offered 15 hours by default. This is thought to be, in part, due to the open statutory guidance which allows for flexible interpretation of government guidelines, as well as financial limitations schools and city councils face. To improve the lives and outcomes of this group of children, is to create a more accurate view and analysis. This can be done by joining up existing datasets, by asking better questions, and by building a model that predicts future numbers of children from falling outside of the system. This, in turn, will push the issue up the political agenda and drive much needed changes to statutory guidance. Most importantly, it would lead to more support for children that are seemingly invisible across the UK.
Regulatory overlaps cause conflicts, confusion and complexity: is collaboration the answer?
By Rob Fulcher, Head of Business – Americas, CUBE Global
Regulatory overlaps are an ongoing, perplexing and often time-consuming anomaly. They occur where multiple market regulators act disjointedly in their attempt to address a market failure, thereby imposing different regulatory requirements with contradictory or overlapping obligations. For financial institutions, this can be problematic: which regulation should take precedence? Will they face punitive action for neglecting one obligation in favour of another?
Following the global financial crisis of 2008, a swathe of new policies and acts came into force with a view to protecting the system and essentially preventing another market crash. Inevitably, this led to a host of new regulations, some of which created overlaps and inconsistencies. In turn, this leads to inefficiencies and misunderstandings as businesses endeavour to comply with all and every regulation, often finding themselves at a stand-off.
Financial institutions – especially the compliance team – are desperate for regulatory clarity. However, in many cases, it is not forthcoming. Regulatory clarity is not, it seems, high on the regulator’s agenda. A recent report by CUBE, RegTech for Regulatory Change, in association with Burnmark, explored the evolving landscape of regulatory overlaps. We now delve deeper into this topic to ask, ‘what is the solution?’
GDPR, PSD2 and MiFID II – to collect or protect data?
One notorious regulatory overlap that causes consistent headaches for financial institutions is that between GDPR and PSD2.
While GDPR gives individuals greater control over their data and restricts the freedoms of organisations to share it, PSD2 imposes data sharing requirements on ﬁnancial service providers. It is up to the banks to ensure that correct policies and procedures are in place so as to comply with both pieces of legislation. This is not often an easy task considering their almost diametrically opposite aims.
The same can be said for the regulatory rules that surround both MiFID II and GDPR – two pieces of legislation filled with inherent contradictions. While the former focuses on consumer protection through transparency and retaining more information about the investor community; the latter is concerned with data protection and limiting the access to investor data if so desired by the owner of the data and giving investors the right to be forgotten.
Data privacy and AML – data sharing can only go so far
Data is a commodity – compared often to crude oil. For financial institutions, data is not only part of ongoing business functions, but it also holds potential for manipulation, misinformation or illicit activity. Surprisingly, the value of data has only truly been realised in recent years. In turn, we have seen a swathe of money laundering and data protection activity – leading to new and amended regulations to bolster data protections and simultaneously impose supervisory requirements to avoid money laundering. Global banks are ﬁnding it challenging to comply with one without compromising on the other.
Multinational banks often ﬁnd themselves walking a tight rope between trying to meet data privacy requirements and simultaneously meeting those surrounding anti-money laundering (AML). For example, banks in the US are forbidden from sharing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with foreign branch counterparts due to disclosure restrictions, thereby making it diﬃcult to implement a group-wide compliance program.
Regulatory overlap in the US
The US has a long-established, complicated and often fragmented regulatory structure. Signiﬁcant and costly overlaps exist across the board, especially between the Oﬃce of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve System’s data collection activities, along with its supervision and examination activities. Consumer protection is conducted by six US regulators, which naturally results in overlaps, duplication and confusion.
Similarly, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and state securities regulators oversee securities and derivatives markets, leading to similar concerns of overlaps and fragmentation. Swaps and security-based swap products face the supervision of SEC and CFTC and market participants have made it known that this leads to signiﬁcant market and operational challenges.
Regulatory overlap is not new – nor is there a clear solution. We have occasionally heard tales of compliance team members writing to regulators to request clarification, often to no avail. In the meantime, financial institutions must take steps to implement all relevant regulations where they can and mitigate risks where they are not able.
Regulatory technology (RegTech), especially automated change management platforms such as CUBE, highlight overlaps and alert compliance teams where issues or inconsistencies arise. For now, this is the most effective means of managing unclear regulations.
Ultimately, the answer lies with financial regulators themselves. While uncertainty exists, regulators must issue guidance and expectations in order to standardise approaches across the industry. The ideal outcome is undoubtedly founded in collaboration: regulators across sectors, industry and jurisdictions should collaborate to ensure that legislative changes are consistent and do not tread on the toes of the other. With the emergence of new technology – and related new regulation – many regulators are calling for a joined-up approach and looking to work together in their supervisory goals. Perhaps collaborative, unambiguous financial regulators aren’t so far away after all.
Rob has 20 years’ experience in financial services sales and management. Following his early sales career at Euler Hermes, a global credit insurance business, Rob went on to establish a 15-year career in GRC. Initially working in London at Complinet, a compliance and risk business, Rob subsequently relocated to New York. In 2010, Complinet was acquired by Thomson Reuters and Rob played a pivotal role in growing GRC revenues, especially relating to regulatory change management. As Head of Sales Americas for CUBE Global, Rob re-built the sales team and consistently out-performed all other regions.
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Christmas isn’t cancelled; Santa now does click & collect
Despite fears that Christmas will be cancelled this year, new data from ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ: ACIW) finds that, with local lockdowns and social distancing measures in place across the UK, the Festive shopping season is starting earlier this year.
Based on analysis on hundreds of millions of eCommerce transactions around the globe, ACI’s latest eCommerce tracker predicts we will see a 27% increase in online shopping transactions. Along with a whopping 40% increase in click and collect purchases as consumers remain socially distant and local lockdowns continue.
Indeed, consumers acting as Santa’s little helpers have begun purchasing presents online even earlier than before to keep the Christmas dream alive. Concerns around limited product availability and delivery delays have seen online transactions increase by 21% in the last four weeks, when compared to the same period last year.
Amanda Mickleburgh, Director of Merchant Fraud Product at ACI Worldwide commented, “While Black Friday has typically been the starting line for the festive period, this year Prime Day sounds the klaxon. There are myriad reasons for this. With everyone encouraged to social distance and many areas of the UK now under even tighter local lockdowns, there’s more time than ever to browse online for presents. Added to this, many remember the severe delays in receiving purchases at the start of lockdown, and will be looking to avoid missing presents under the Christmas tree.
“Merchants should look to expand their same day shipping capabilities and provide free returns or extend T&Cs, to capitalise on this trend. Far from seeing physical stores as a lost cause, they should take advantage of the increase in demand for click and collect. And turn their stores into valuable real estate by expanding their click and collect capabilities.
However, there is a dark side to the holiday season kicking off earlier – fraud continues to increase as criminals take advantage of click and collect options and consumers start to buy higher-value items like the latest electronics. ACI’s analysis found that the value of attempted fraud increased from $7 to $9 per consumer this September compared to 2019.
Amanda Mickleburgh continued, “While click and collect is a major draw for consumers, merchants need to increase their fraud protection measures for this channel. As more merchants continue to offer this option to customers, there are greater opportunities for fraudsters to create a nightmare before Christmas.”
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