“Shattered Dreams; Broken Hopes” The Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Migrant Workers in Southeast Asia

    Caram Asia ,Musarrat Parveen ,Adrian Anthony Pereira ,Brahm Press


    Introduction: The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, and it has affected the migrant workers as well. The mitigation process of the Covid-19 by governments especially developing countries-lockdowns, shut down of public and private institutions, and border controls has further deteriorated the social and economic situation of already vulnerable migrant workers as most of them lost their jobs and faced health challenges during the pandemic. These migrant workers were dealing with pressing issues such as abuses, stigma and discrimination, with no or difficult access to health facilities, and unsafe living conditions The objective of study was to assess the impact of COVID-19 on migrant workers and their families in Asian countries and uncover migrant workers, PLHIV migrants and women migrant’s issues due to the pandemic. Like other destination countries, migrant workers in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand have lost their income to support themselves and their families due to the abrupt business closures and lockdowns. CARAM Asia took the initiative to carry out research on problems of migrant workers in three countries with the help of local partners in Hong Kong, North South Initiative (NSI) in Malaysia, and MAP foundation in Thailand.

    Methodology: This qualitative research was done by using Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), Key Informants’ Interviews, and Interviews of migrant workers. In the total sample of 289 respondents, 59% were male and 41% female.

    Conclusion: It was found that migrant workers were in vulnerable condition where most of them had lost their jobs, others who were still working were facing low wages and less working hours. Living conditions were overall deteriorated with almost no social security from the government. It was found that migrant workers experienced exclusion, stigmatization as if they were virus carriers, lack of support and protection from government, and loss of jobs and livelihood. Access to health facilities for migrant workers was difficult as they were not included in the governments’ social safety nets. It was also found that social and psychological distress caused depletion of living standards (20% responses in Hong Kong) and the experience of increased workload and insufficient protective equipment for combating the Covid-19 were also common. The total affected percentage of migrants who either lost their income completely or partially and socially affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic was roughly 20% in Hong Kong, 20% in Malaysia, and 65% in Thailand.

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