Tag: social protection

ILO warns of COVID-19 migrant ‘crisis within a crisis’

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Policies need to be put in place to protect stranded migrant workers and to ensure the reintegration of those who return to their home countries, says the International Labour Organization.

GENEVA,24 June 2020 (ILO News): Tens of millions of migrant workers, forced to return home because of the COVID-19 pandemic after losing their jobs, face unemployment and poverty in their home countries, the International Labour Organization has warned.

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 normally sent to them.

Meanwhile, other migrant workers have found themselves stranded in host countries without access to social protection and little money for food or accommodation. Even those with jobs may be taking reduced wages and living in cramped worksite residences where social distancing is impossible, putting them at greater risk of contracting the virus.

While many migrant workers, particularly women, are doing essential jobs for their host societies during the pandemic, particularly in the care or agriculture sectors, those in other sectors have lost their jobs or have continued to work informally.

“This is a potential crisis within a crisis,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department. “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.”

It is estimated there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide, nearly half of them women, comprising 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 indicates 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. 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 shows 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.

Helping returning migrants reintegrate will also reduce tensions in their home countries, where some communities may fear that returning migrants may bring the virus or take jobs away. Rebuilding the livelihood strategies of returning migrants will allow them to pay any debts related to their original recruitment abroad, avoiding the risk of forced labour and human trafficking, or re-migration through irregular pathways.

“With the right policies, the return of these workers can be converted into a resource for recovery,” said Michelle Leighton, Chief of the ILO’s Labour Migration Department. “These migrants will bring with them talents and new skills, and in some cases capital, that can support efforts in their home countries to build back better. We must help these countries grasp the opportunity.”

The ILO publications include assessments of the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers in Jordan, Lebanon and the ASEAN region, on seasonal workers’ schemes, and on refugee workers and other displaced persons. There is also guidance on policy responses to help maximize the benefits of the returning wave of migrants, including procedures for recognizing skills acquired, ensuring fair recruitment, extending social protection coverage, and help with finding new jobs or re-migrating safely.

Contagion or starvation, the dilemma facing informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lockdown measures will worsen poverty and vulnerabilities among the world’s two billion informal economy workers, says the International Labour Organization.

GENEVA (ILO News) – COVID-19 lockdown and containment measures threaten to increase relative poverty levels among the world’s informal economy workers by as much as 56 percentage points in low-income countries, says a new briefing paper issued by the International Labour Organization.

In high-income countries, relative poverty levels among informal workers is estimated to increase by 52 percentage points, while in upper-middle-income countries the increase is estimated to be 21 percentage points.

As many as 1.6 billion of the world’s two billion informal economy workers are affected by lockdown and containment measures. Most are working in the hardest-hit sectors or in small units more vulnerable to shocks.

These include workers in accommodation and food services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and the more than 500 million farmers producing for the urban market. Women are particularly affected in high-risk sectors, the report says.

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In addition, with these workers needing to work to feed their families, COVID-19 containment measures in many countries cannot be implemented successfully. This is endangering governments’ efforts to protect the population and fight the pandemic. It may become a source of social tension in countries with large informal economies, the report says.

More than 75 percent of total informal employment takes place in businesses of fewer than ten workers, including 45 percent of independent workers without employees.

With most informal workers having no other means of support, they face an almost unsolvable dilemma: to die from hunger or from the virus, the briefing says. This has been exacerbated by disruptions in food supplies, which has particularly affected those in the informal economy.

For the world’s 67 million domestic workers, 75 per cent of whom are informal workers, unemployment has become as threatening as the virus itself. Many have not been able to work, whether at the request of their employers or in compliance with lockdowns. Those who do continue to go to work face a high risk of contagion, caring for families in private households. For the 11 million migrant domestic workers the situation is even worse.

“The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities and inequalities,” says Philippe Marcadent, Chief of the ILO’s INWORK branch. “Policy responses must ensure that support reaches the workers and enterprises who need it most.”

The countries with the largest informal economies where full lockdowns have been adopted are suffering the most from the consequences of the pandemic. Informal economy workers significantly impacted by lockdown varies from 89 percent in Latin America and the Arab States to 83 percent in Africa, 73 percent in Asia and the Pacific, and 64 percent in Europe and Central Asia.

Countries need to follow a multi-track strategy that combines several lines of actions relating to both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, says the ILO.

Among its recommendations, the report highlights the need for policies that reduce the exposure of informal workers to the virus; ensure that those infected have access to health care; provide income and food support to individuals and their families; and prevent damage to the economic fabric of countries.

Source: ilo.org