Honduras' Central Bank: Emigration to U.S. Is a Cause for Concern

By Kausha Luna on September 30, 2015

The United Nations' new development agenda presents migration and remittances as a contribution to development. However, the vice president of Honduras' Central Bank (BCH), Manuel Bautista, said in a recent interview that emigration and remittances are a source of concern for Honduras.

Bautista's comments need to be understood in the context of a 2007 report by the BCH on family remittances and a profile of remittance senders. The report shows emigration to the U.S. from Honduras has had a negative impact on the productivity of the work force. The data shows labor inactivity increased by 9.1 percent in 2006. The emigrant population (estimated at more than 1 million out of the country's current population of 8.6 million) is a significant portion of Honduras' labor force because almost all (92.5 percent) are between 15 and 49 years old. Furthermore, the able workers receiving remittances often stop looking for jobs and others use remittances as early retirement funds.

The BCH has also expressed concern regarding remittance use. Over 80 percent of remittances are used for consumption, including about 43 percent spent on food and drink, 16 percent used on housing and energy, and 9.1 percent on health. Only 6.9 percent of remittances are allocated to education and a very small portion are put into savings or invested.

Emigration from Honduras is not causing a "brain-drain" of skilled workers. The data shows 63 percent of Honduran emigrants have only completed a primary education. And the number of Honduran emigrants with a high school education or above is decreasing; in 1998 41.9 percent of emigrants had a high school education or above, this fell to 38.7 percent between 1999 and 2003, and decreased again to 31 percent between 2004 and 2006. The progressively lower educational level among emigrants is partially explained by an increase in emigration from rural areas.

It should be noted that the majority of these emigrants are not coming from the lowest earning households. Only 8.1 percent of emigrants come from the poorest quintile, because the cost of emigration is too high for many in this portion of the population. And 28 percent of emigrants fall in the top quintile. Of those surveyed, 93.3 percent cited economic improvement as their reason for emigrating.

The absence of a brain-drain may have positive implications for Honduras' development, but it should be disconcerting to the U.S. A recent report from the Center points to the correlation between low levels of education and high rates of welfare use in the United States. Thus, a continued influx of uneducated immigrants would create significant welfare costs.

Ultimately, as the BCH concludes in its report, emigration and remittances are not resolving extreme poverty.

Additional information:

  • At the time the BCH published its report in 2007, remittances sent to Honduras were decreasing. However, remittances sent to Honduras have increased by 10. 8 percent in 2015.
  • The Honduran government has put into play several initiatives to curb emigration levels, largely focusing on child emigration. See: "Hondurans, Listen to the Children!"


Topics: Remittances