Migrant workers are a crucial part of the global workforce, accounting for 3.5% of the world’s population, according to IOM. Worldwide, micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), rely upon migrant workers, including sectors providing essential commodities and services, as well as industries hard-hit by COVID-19.
As the economic and human consequences of COVID-19 continue to shape local communities, businesses can play a decisive role in addressing the unique challenges faced by migrant workers.
Migrant workers are susceptible to job loss, salary cuts, and various health and safety concerns. Unlike local populations, migrant workers often are far from family support networks. They face language and/or cultural barriers and often lack social protections. Many suffer from discrimination. Meanwhile, overseas economies that rely on financial contributions from migrant workers–especially low- and middle- income countries—face a steep decline in cross-border remittances.
In response, ICC and IOM have published a set of guidelines for employers highlighting the private sector’s role in addressing the specific challenges of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance includes a set of general principles for employers—such as treating all workers with “equality, dignity, and respect”—notwithstanding their gender or migratory status. This guidance is presented in five categories: physical and mental health, living and working conditions, economic support, ethical recruitment, and supply chain transparency commitments.
“COVID-19 has exposed and heightened existing inequalities within our global economic system, including the daily challenges faced by migrant workers around the world,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton.
“By establishing inclusive policy responses, businesses can assure the health, well-being, and safety of all employees, while at the same time, lay the foundations for a more resilient economic recovery,” he added.
The ICC-IOM guidance document has been adapted from the IOM’s COVID-19 guidance to enhance migrant worker protection during the current health crisis and complements other ICC recommendations on health and safety measures for employees.
“Migrant workers continue to be on the frontline of our collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic: not only as doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, but as the agricultural, transport and retail workers that keep our cities and towns functioning,” said Marina Manke, Head of IOM Labour Mobility and Human Development Division.
“Employers are in a unique position to ensure full protection for these workers both at the workplace and in their communities of operation and supply chains. We hope this guide will serve them well,” she explained.
ICC and its network of national committees are working with IOM to raise awareness of the specific needs and support measures for migrant workers during COVID19 among businesses in different regions. Most recently, IOM and ICC – along with its regional offices in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico – hosted a webinar directed at employers in Latin America in Spanish.