Remitting money back home from Canada costs a lot less than just a few years ago. Still the costs remain high. According to the World Bank, sending USD$ 200 from Canada incurs about a 9.32 per cent payment commission, down from 13.28 per cent in 2007. Such high rates make Canada one of the most expensive places to repatriate money, with the average transfer cost in G8 countries being a 7.17 per cent commission.
The World Bank believes that despite the gradual reduction in commissions, the cost of remitting money remains excessive. It is estimated that about 247 million migrants worldwide send a total of $583 billion to their homes every year, with money transfers from Canada accounting for 5 per cent of this amount.
Estimates suggest that one in four in British Columbia were born out of Canada and need to send money regularly back home. Most foreign-born residents rely on the services of more than 500 remittance locations to transfer money.
With BC home to almost 20 per cent of the seven million foreign workers in Canada, it receives a large share of the income generated from remittances. Despite the scaling back of the temporary foreign worker program last year, there still remain substantial numbers of foreign-born workers in the province who use foreign remittance services. What’s more, experts believe that the TFW rules will not affect the remittance scenario as most of these transfers are made by the much larger number of permanent immigrants in Canada.
The remittance business is favoured by many companies around Vancouver, including grocery chains and payday loan outlets. A number of small businesses like florists, hair salons, and bars also offer foreign remittance services.
The business is run typically in the same way all over the world. In 2012 Vancity credit union started a pilot remittance project, under which money transfers to the Philippines could be done over the phone for a low flat fee of $5. This is significantly lower, being just two per cent (at today’s exchange rate) for the benchmark US$200 amount used by the World Bank for global comparisons.
Vancity, however, has not generated sufficient interest from the 100,000 strong Filipino community living in Canada. Figures show that on average, just 25-30 people use this service.
Mobility and trust issues may be the reasons behind the migrants’ reluctance to try newer cost-effective remittance services. Most users choose the service closest to home and many customers prefer to continue using the service they have a long standing and regular working relationship.