ILO Brief

Seasonal Migrant Workers’ Schemes: Rethinking Fundamental Principles and Mechanisms in light of COVID-19

This ILO brief provides a preliminary review of short-term measures adopted by industrialised countries to address potential labour shortages in the agriculture sector. It shows that in many contexts and, with differences, the re-labelling of food-related and agriculture workers as ‘essential’ has allowed three types of short-term measures: i) tapping into the national workforce, ii) exceptions in travel bans as well as extensions to visas and work permits that are ‘temporary’; and iii) regularization plans and resorting to asylum seekers despite the fact that in certain countries this status does not allow them to work. Finally, the brief offers initial thinking into how seasonal migrant workers’ schemes could be redesigned, after the pandemic, to fully embrace a human-centred approach in line with the needs of labour markets and the economy.