Locked in and in limbo: the global impact of COVID-19 on the rights and recruitment of migrant workers – World


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on migrant workers and their access to decent work. Beyond the immediate public health crisis, response measures, including containment and border closures, have had specific implications for the conditions of hiring and employment of migrant workers. These measures have increased the vulnerability of migrant workers at the same time as the economic and social dependence on migrant workers who provide essential services such as health care and sanitation has worsened.
To map and understand this impact in detail, the ILO commissioned a series of rapid assessments in some of the world’s most important corridors for low-wage migrant workers.1, 2 Completed in the first months of the crisis ( early to mid-2020), these assessments gathered primary data in the form of interviews and surveys from the perspective of migrant workers and key stakeholders (including governments, civil society, the recruitment industry , employers ‘organizations, trade unions and workers’ organizations) engaged in the governance of migration, migrant workers deployment and protection of the rights of migrant workers. These rapid assessments provide valuable snapshots of the immediate impact of the pandemic and early responses to the pandemic on migrant workers in various parts of the world.
Common themes emerging from the research also illustrate the ways in which the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and vulnerabilities experienced by migrant workers around the world.
These themes demonstrate the clear links between the impact of the pandemic on migrant workers and the structural causes of inequalities and vulnerabilities embedded in many current labor migration processes and practices.
For example, many migrant workers interviewed by the ILO have seen their jobs in destination countries summarily suspended or terminated as the pandemic spread, leaving them without a source of income. These workers have often found themselves stranded due to travel restrictions and border closures, as well as directly or indirectly excluded from the COVID-19-related social security programs available to domestic workers. The pandemic has also exacerbated the debt burden carried by migrant workers. Despite a growing commitment to the principle that workers should not pay any fees or recruitment fees, workers in many parts of the world continue to take on debt to finance their cross-border movement for work. Due to COVID-19, many potential migrant workers who had taken on debt to travel were unable to leave, get repayments or earn income to pay off their debts. Migrant workers stranded without a job have taken on additional debts and lost savings covering basic living costs for themselves and their families or on the verge of attempting to return home.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a sudden and dramatic impact on people in all countries of the world, its impact on migrant workers is a stark reminder of the urgent need to reform governance processes and practices. labor migration in the pursuit of a fairer system that is free from exploitation and facilitates decent work for all.

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