Thursday, January 18, 2007

El Salvador's migrants

LATIN AMERICA: POLITICS, POVERTY AND CRIME. El Salvador's migrants by Raphaëlle Bail January 17, 2007

EL SALVADOR is the ideal country in which to observe the effects of massive emigration. This is unsurprising, given its scale: between 1.7 million and 2.5 million Salvadorians, 25-34% of the population, live abroad, the majority in the United States. A deputy minister is responsible for looking after the interests of this highly organised diaspora. Daily newspapers contain entire sections devoted to them, especially El Prensa Gráfica, whose `Departamento 15' pages are named after El Salvador's 15th department, the US.

Salvadorian migrants are generous. According to the central bank, remesas (remittances) amounted to $2.1bn in 2003, $2.5bn in 2004 and almost $3bn in 2005. This is equivalent to 15% of El Salvador's gross domestic product, more than the country's education and health budgets put together. For families, remesas are a significant additional income. The UN Development Programme estimates that 20-25% of the population benefits by $400 per person a year. In regions along the frontier with Honduras where emigration is especially prevalent, these contributions can amount to almost 30% of income.

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