Pandemic Exhibits the Need for Migration Reform

The term remittance has been termed as a “lifeline in the developing country.” This lifeline is under threat, as pandemic has halted the movement around the globe, making travelling across and between a few countries still restricted for the foreseeable future. From tourist to travel and labour migration, the world will be a lot more sedentary.

To conclude, unfortunately, it ends up as a piece of bad news for international migration. It gets harder to advocate more open and flexible approaches towards global migration management. With trust in multilateralism at an all-time low, COVID-19 will give the “nationalistas” new ammunition. In accordance with a study, a sharp decline was recorded in the amount of money sent from the migrators. From $ 548 billion in pre-Covid 2019, it fell to a significant forecast of $ 508 billion in 2020. So far, it is projected to fall further to $ 470 billion in 2021. That is a 14 % drop in remittances over the two years.

Reforms are happening around the world

It is essential to recognise that migrant workers were key players of our economies and societies before the pandemic. Also, likely to become even more critical in the recovery to sustain our weakened economies and exhausted societies. Likewise, 13 percent of workers in the EU are immigrants.

Share of immigrants among key workers, by occupation

Source: Immigration of workers: Their contribution to Europe’s COVID-19 response.

The doctors and nurses are the backbones of societies and economies. Their contribution ranges between 10 and 30 percent of GDP in the countries of origin through remittances. These remittances are likely to plummet by $445 billion due to COVID-19. Yet, there are also low-skilled and “disposable” migrant workers that many countries aim to keep out through increasingly stringent immigration policies.

Reforms are happening worldwide to recognise migrant workers’ contribution to the COVID-19 response. Most importantly, install measures to remove barriers and aid migrants’ access to labour markets, social protection, and essential services. Few of these reforms are more comprehensive than others. For example, Portugal has temporarily granted all migrants and asylum-seekers citizenship rights, and the regulation applies in some sectors in Italy. Likewise, in the U.S, most measures are of an emergency nature and grant foreign-born health care workers temporary work permits or skills recognition.

How can it sustain these reforms beyond the pandemic?

The simple answer is a shift in thinking and practice among all of us advocating for migration reform. The main “problem” to fix is not migration; instead, the problem is skills, jobs, and lack of legal pathways. In addition, the obstacles include when the immigration rules pose to filling skills and labour gaps. Hence these obstacles are vital, according to researchers at Oxford University. Thus, 53 percent of EU-born and 42 percent of non-EU born workers in critical occupations does not meet the requirements for a post-Brexit visa.

Actions initiated to make migration rules that work for people, economies, and societies

Therefore, answer does not lie in migration policy alone, so it requires context- and sector-specific reforms that are “locally led and politically smart.” It requires new alliances between reformers with incentives to make change happen. In Italy, the recent regularisation reform is part of a broader COVID-19 recovery package. It is sponsored by the minister for agriculture and local development/cohesion. It incorporates all workers in the informal economy, Italian and foreign-born and is applicable in specific sectors only and temporary. In simple words, like most reforms, it is partial, politically negotiated, and will require investment and incentives to be implemented. It might not be easy, but it has a unique window of opportunity to get the politics of reform right, backed by increasingly favourable public opinions attitudes.

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