When we talk about Corona, social distancing , quarantine etc ,Several questions come in our mind like..What will be the impact of Covid-19 crisis and spiralling oil prices on the migrant workforce in the Gulf countries, particularly those, who are from India?
What awaits the millions of Indian migrants in the Gulf who lack much needed access to healthcare and financial security? Do you see a lot of migrants returning, as a result of this? What will be the likely impact of all this on home countries? What are some practices you would recommend to governments, including the Indian government, to help those migrant workers ,who are in abroad?
The coronavirus crisis is going to produce unprecedented levels of effects on the migrant economy. The first is pretty direct: Because of social distancing and the lockdown, businesses are mostly shut and only a few people are working. That means a lot of migrant workers are now either unemployed or waiting for something (positive) to happen.
It also means a lot of people are stranded. In addition, there is the effect of oil prices. There has been a significant decline in demand for oil, which has been an additional pressure on the economy of the Gulf countries. This means more fiscal restraint, reducing the government’s ability to provide protection to foreign workers.
Thousands of migrants in the Gulf are running out of money and uncertain about their future.
Jobless or uncertain whether their employers will pay their wages for the lockdown period to be able to send money to their families, the migrant families have to utilise their savings to meet their expenses. This means that migrants are under more pressure to stay for a more extended period in the Gulf in order to earn more.
Workers who depend on their employer for food and accommodation, face the fear of having to meet these expenses from their salaries, adding an additional financial burden.
Workers are also living in fear that their employer might ask them to go home after the lockdown as some businesses and services such as restaurants and taxi companies are facing a financial crisis due to the lockdown.
The fact that migrants are not able to send money to their homes because they have either lost their jobs or are not earning as much as they used to, is going to lower remittances going back to families. Even if people want to send money, the money service business itself has been impacted in many parts. Poorer migrants tend to depend on cash remittances, through local stores, picked up by families back home. Access to this can be limited at both ends.
An immediate policy recommendation is that India takes care of its stranded migrants. We are not talking about a hundred or thousand, we are talking about millions of people. These are Indians who are relatively poorer — not the doctors and nurses. They have to be helped. We have to find some way of bringing people back, if they want to come home.
A better solution would be to keep people safe in their destination country. Second, the governments of India and the Gulf countries need to help these workers with cash aid so they can buy essentials, and give them access to housing and health. Third, money service business should be recognised as an essential service and people have to be helped to use online channels.
The coronavirus pandemic is definitely uniting the globe and making us better human beings. So find your silver lining amidst the dark clouds of coronavirus, stay at home, spend time with your family, learn a new hobby, read a book, and live every moment to the fullest, while you let the earth heal.