Remittance flows to ASEAN fall in Quarter 2 hinh anh 1A queue for remittance services at a Western Union outlet in Singapore (Photo:

Singapore (VNA) – The amount of money migrant workers in the ASEAN bloc sent home fell in the second quarter of the year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in a worrying sign for household incomes and local economies, according to the latest report from the ASEAN 3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO).

Earnings transfers to Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines shrank year on year in the second quarter of 2020, reversing the previous year's growth.

AMRO attributed the decrease to the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus which fuelled job losses across the region, including among migrant workers.

Second-quarter remittance receipts contracted 8.7 percent in Cambodia, 22 percent in Indonesia, 1.3 percent in Thailand and 9.3 percent in the Philippines.

Permanent economic scarring, protracted travel curbs, and a structural shift in labour markets may mean that the job opportunities are already lost and redeployment of migrant workers "may not be fully possible", the AMRO report warned.

As such, the authors urged countries that typically send migrants abroad to expand social safety nets, support training schemes, and strengthen domestic labour markets.

Such measures are meant to better cover returning workers in the medium term, especially as weak remittances also hit trade balances and tax revenues.

The report noted that the global trend showed an improvement in remittance inflows after April and May, as economic activity resumed after the epidemic's first wave.

But the authors added that "the rebound might hide ongoing weaknesses", such as an increasing reliance on formal remittance channels that could have buoyed official in-flow figures despite unchanged or even decreasing remittance values.

As more migrants move towards digital money transfers, countries could also help to ensure that transaction fees for remittances are "affordably low" and regulations are put in place to enable efficient and safe transfers, they suggested./.