MANAGUA – Seventy-five percent of Nicaraguans claim they have a family member living abroad and 40% receive remittance money sent back from relatives living and working in other countries, according to a new M&R home survey.
According to official statistics, some 700,000 Nicaraguans – in a country of 5.3 million – live abroad, although most experts claim the number of Nicaraguans living outside of the country is more than 1 million.
The average remittance allowance received by Nicaraguans here is $175 sent nine times a year, or around $1,500 a year.
Remittances are living allowances sent to families by individuals living and working in another country. In Nicaragua, remittances account for some $700 million to $1 billion a year in money entering the country, more than the annual revenue generated from other economic activities, such as the textile sector and the tourism sector.
Most Nicaraguans living abroad are in the United States, Costa Rica and – increasingly – El Salvador, according to analyst Manuel Orozco, who conducted the survey.
About 70% of Nicaraguans living abroad send money back home.
Orozco said there could be as many as 300,000 Nicaraguans in El Salvador during the harvest season, lured by that country’s dollarized economy, which allows migrants to earn around $250 a month – three times more than they would earn here – bringing in the coffee and cotton harvest.
Nicaraguans are also increasingly moving to Europe and other parts of the world, Orozco said.
“Nicas are everywhere,” he said.
Still, most Nicaraguans who move abroad to work do so in the United States, where they send home $657 million a year, 64% of all remittance money entering the country, according to the study.
An additional $133 million is sent back each year from Costa Rica.
The survey also found that 24% of those polled said they plan on emigrating within the next year, mostly for economic reasons and a lack of employment here.
Orozco says that the number of Nicaraguans emigrating has increased “significantly” over the past decade. Motives, too, have changed from political to economic.
During the war in the 1980s, an average of 30,000 Nicaraguans left each year. But during the previous administration of President Enrique Bolaños (2002-2006), an average of 140,000 Nicaraguans left the country each year – something the Sandinistas often point out.
As the upward trend continues, however, it remains to be seen whether more Nicaraguans will leave their country during the current Sandinista government than they did during the previous one.