Understanding Relevant Sustainable Development Goal Targets Related to Labour Migration in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations During the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic
Over the past 2 decades, regional labour migration has emerged as a significant driver of economic growth and development in countries of origin and destination within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. However, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is disproportionately affecting migrant workers, who constitute one of the most vulnerable populations in the region. Economic downturns, restrictions on recruitment and travel, and lack of access to social welfare systems are having a severe impact. Even before the pandemic, most of the region’s roughly 9.9 million international migrant workers had unstable wages; poor work conditions; and limited or no access to social welfare systems, health care, human rights, or options for upward mobility.
This publication explores the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional migrant workers, using the Sustainable Development Goals as a benchmark. First, we examine the status of social protection and welfare systems in origin and destination countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the context of regional labour migration. Then, we track the progress of various indicators before and after the COVID-19 crisis to gauge the pandemic’s potential impact on migrant workers. We find that in the short term, Sustainable Development Goal targets may not be met. However, if governments learn the right lessons, compliance with different treaties and guidelines on migrant workers can be improved and resources targeted more efficiently. We conclude that the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to further reinforce regional cooperation on migrant labour standards.