Fair recruitment

Locked down and in limbo: The global impact of COVID-19 on migrant worker rights and recruitment

This report provides a global overview of the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers – with a focus on recruitment – drawing on rapid assessments conducted by the ILO in early-mid 2020.

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 lockdowns and border closures had specific implications for the hiring and employment conditions 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 deliver essential services such as healthcare and sanitation has deepened.

To chart and understand this impact in detail, the ILO commissioned a series of rapid assessments in some of the world’s most significant corridors for low-wage migrant workers. Completed in the initial 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 sector, employers’ organizations, unions and workers’ organizations) engaged in migration governance, migrant worker deployment and the 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 exacerbated existing inequalities and vulnerabilities experienced by migrant workers globally. These themes demonstrate the clear linkages between the impact of the pandemic on migrant workers and the structural causes of the inequalities and vulnerabilities embedded in many current labour migration processes and practices.

Drawing on the rapid assessments, this report provides a global picture of the impact of the crisis on migrant workers, and provides valuable recommendations for ensuring protection of migrant workers’ rights.