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Brazil ignores its emigrants while remittances hit a record high

Coauthor Otávio Ávila

For the fifth consecutive year, Brazil has hit a record high for remittances from personal transfers from abroad. The figure of R$ 4.7 billion (reais) calculated by the Central Bank (BC) in 2022 represented an increase of 22.5% over the previous year (3.8 billion), which had already established a new level for the historical series, which began in 1995. Last year, the highest amounts were sent from the United States (R$2.23 billion); the United Kingdom (R$462 million); and Portugal (R$375 million).

The Central Bank has also calculated the amount of personal remittances of reverse flow to these receipts. In 2022, R$ 2.1 billion were sent from Brazil abroad, especially to the United States (R$ 435 million), Portugal (R$ 375 million), and Canada (R$ 136 million). In both scenarios, the United States and Portugal appear among the first three countries in the ranking in financial transactions with Brazil, the latter registering “zero balance” (exactly the same amount) in the exchanges established between residents of Brazilian and Portuguese territories.

If we think about it, we see that, especially in the case of personal remittances from foreign countries to Brazil, the record amount of R$ 4.7 billion in 2022 is equivalent to 0.47% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) registered in the country in the same year (of R$ 9.9 trillion). It is a growth that involves, even, data from Latin America and the Caribbean. A report from the Inter-American Dialogue analysis center points to a 26% increase in the value of personal remittances from foreigners sent to the continent, which exceeded US$ 134.4 billion in 2021 if compared to the previous year. According to the study, the figure represents 5% of the entire region’s GDP and more than 20% of that of many smaller countries. 

Back to Brazil, it is worth remembering, as recently widely reported by the press, in population terms, the estimated figure of Brazilians living in other countries rose from 4.2 million in 2020 to 4.4 million in 2021, a high recorded even in the pandemic period, responsible for the closing of international borders. Compared to the Brazilian states, this number is equivalent to the population of Espírito Santo (4.1 million) or Paraíba (4 million), according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), already based on the data of the 2020 Census.

Of course, there are countless aspects related to the aforementioned numbers, which makes the scenario quite complex. There are, from the economic slowdown in recent times and political instabilities in Brazil, to transnational factors, such as increasingly strict international migration policies, or historical and cultural ties, always very relevant when the subject is the departure of Brazilians not only to Portugal, as we are used to thinking, but also to the United States and Japan, countries that already count new generations of Brazilians composed of children and/or grandchildren of the first emigrants. Not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic itself, which has changed every order of human and financial flows on the planet.

However, what is most striking is the Brazilian state’s disregard for these numbers. In terms of values or demographic data, we could be dealing here with a virtual state, the 28th, beyond the 26 units of the federation, plus the Federal District. Organized based on public policies that not only recognize the importance of these people but also consider the potential impact of this diaspora on the sustainable development of Brazil. Not only the financial remittances that Brazilians send from abroad to support their families or to invest here in Brazil – which, no doubt, moves the economy – are important, but there are also aspects of education, work, technological innovation, as well as social transformation, interculturalism and Brazil’s image abroad that need to be faced with attention, professionalism, and action.

Of course, the 2017 Migration Law (No. 13.445) – which, in an unprecedented way, brings principles and guidelines to be observed by the Brazilian state toward its nationals living in other countries – and Brazil’s recent return to the UN Global Compact for Migration – which works for safe, orderly, and regular displacement processes – do not fail to represent advances. But it is not enough. To give an idea, not even the number of Brazilians present in other countries is accurate – we have always worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE) estimates, based on the service provided by the rigid consular structure.  

Investing in the formulation, implementation, development, and maintenance of state (and not government) public policies of a transnational nature and that consider social-state interactions – the work of civil society organizations for Brazilians abroad, which are highly qualified from the technical-legal, assistance, and cultural points of view, is well known – seems to be the only way not only to include these people in Brazil but also combat problems such as human trafficking, deportation of people in irregular situations, brain drain, among others. Moreover, for the guarantee of the human right to migrate and the understanding that migratory processes are not social anomalies or ruptures; on the contrary, they can mean social transformation and renewal.

Otávio Ávila holds a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). He is an Assistant researcher in the Brazilians Abroad data platform.

*Translated from Portuguese by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva


Doctora en Comunicación y Cultura por la Univ. Federal de Río de Janeiro. Profesora de la Univ. Metodista de São Paulo, Programa de posgrado en Comunicación. Coordinadora de la plataforma de datos Brazilians Abroad:


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