ILO stresses protection, reintegration of migrant workers during Covid-19

International Labour Organization (ILO) on Wednesday stressed policies to protect stranded migrant workers and ensure reintegration after their return to home countries.

Due to Covid-19 pandemic, tens of millions of migrant workers are getting laid off and forced to return to their home countries where they are facing unemployment and poverty, it said.

In a meeting held on Wednesday in Geneva ILO discussed the severe impact on millions of migrants’ workers around the world amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statement.

The issues included the assessments of the impact of Covid-19 on migrant workers in Hong Kong, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, the Arab states and the ASEAN region, the effects on seasonal workers, refugee workers and other displaced persons and guidance on maximising the benefits to home countries of the returning wave of migrants, recognising skills, ensuring fair recruitment, extending social protection coverage, and finding new jobs or re-migrating safely.

The statement added that as containment measures ease, millions of migrant workers may be required to return home to low and middle income countries where labour markets, which were fragile before the Covid-19 outbreak, are now further weakened by the additional strain of high levels of unemployment and serious business disruptions due to the pandemic.

In addition, their families will suffer financially from the loss of the remittances sent to them.

Meanwhile, other migrant workers have found themselves stranded in host countries without access to social protection and little money for food and accommodation.

Even those with jobs may be taking reduced wages and living in cramped workpalce residences where social distancing is impossible, putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“This is a potential crisis within a crisis,” Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department said, adding “We know that many millions of migrant workers, who were under lockdown in their countries of work, have lost their jobs and are now expected to return home to countries that are already grappling with weak economies and rising unemployment. Cooperation and planning are key to avert a worse crisis.”

An estimated 164 million migrant workers worldwide, nearly half of them women, comprise 4.7 per cent of the global labour force.

While not all of these workers will return home – after losing their jobs or for other reasons – informal ILO research in more than 20 countries indicated that many millions are expected to do so.

Most of their home countries have very limited scope to reintegrate such large numbers, and often do not have policies and systems in place to ensure effective labour migration governance and smooth reintegration plans, including for skills development and recognition, the statement added.

Governments in Asia and Africa, in particular, expect millions of migrant workers to return, whether through compulsion or voluntarily, as their job prospects evaporate.

A package of ILO briefing and policy documents focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers who are migrants, refugees, or forcibly displaced persons, draws attention to the potentially serious social and economic impact if returns occur over a short period of time and if migrants are not included in social protection measures or given help to reintegrate into national labour markets.

The research also showed how returning migrant workers bring skills and talent that can help their home economies rebuild better after the pandemic. However, the key to unlocking this potential is the establishment of rights-based and orderly return and reintegration systems, access to social protection, and proper skills recognition. This can facilitate better skills and jobs matching, so increasing productivity for national industries.

In addition, migrant workers may bring knowledge and capital to open new businesses that can help to improve employment opportunities.

Source: Financial Express
Published on 24 June 2020

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