Channel 1 Los Angeles
Gary Rynhart: When COVID-19 spread around the world, many migrants were shipped home unceremoniously or left to fend for themselves. Migrants have also – because of the sectors they work in, and the poor conditions in which many lower skilled migrants live and work – been vectors for spreading the virus. Examples we’ve seen include workers in meat factories in Germany, and construction workers in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
UN News: are migrants more likely to have lost work, due to the economic crisis?
Gary Rynhart: Job losses have often hit migrant workers hardest, because they are more likely to work in informal jobs which can lack safety nets, in case of job loss or illness. This is particularly the case for migrants in developing countries, and temporary migrants, such as seasonal workers, where social protection tends, at best, to be limited to work injury compensation or health benefits.
Over thirty countries in the world get more than 10 per cent of their GDP from remittances. This money sent home by around one billion workers overseas or internally to their families is collectively higher than either foreign direct investment or official development assistance. It was almost three-quarters of a billion dollars last year. The World Bank estimates a drop of 20% this year. Families across the developing world are being impacting, creating ripple effects throughout their economies.
UN News: will migrants be able to find jobs, once the global economy recovers?
Gary Rynhart: The disruption to supply chains and closed borders resulting from the pandemic will probably lead to more firms turning to technology, automation and Artificial Intelligence. In a recent survey by accounting firm EY, around half of company bosses surveyed, in 45 countries, said that they are speeding up plans to automate their businesses, and some 41 per cent said they were investing in accelerating automation, as businesses prepared for a post-crisis world.
This is potentially bad news for migrants. Southeast Asia is a case in point: take the garment factories in the region, which is mostly filled with internal migrants, or the shrimp peeling industry in Thailand, which is done by Myanmar migrants.
Technology to reduce, or eliminate, the need for human workers in these industries already exists.
Even call centres in the Philippines, which benefited from outsourcing that began in the 1990s, are affected. It’s estimated that up to 90 per cent of these ‘new’ jobs are under high threat from automation. That’s one million jobs, accounting for around seven per cent of the country’s GDP.