One year after COVID-19, future still uncertain for migrant workers

The future remains bleak for millions of migrant workers who were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, a year after the global health crisis slowed down migration.

But while increasing border restrictions have a big impact on the mobility of migrant workers, many countries have also issued hundreds of exceptions, enabling movement to a certain extent. Migration continues to be an essential feature and driver of economic development for many countries. 

This was confirmed by BWI’s Croatian affiliate SGH after it visited one of Zagreb-Montaža’s construction sites and talked to its workers. 

“Croatia’s construction industry is on a slump. Despite an increase in the construction workers’ wages last year, many of these workers still left their companies as the wage increase was not commensurate to the increasing prices of basic commodities. Many workers, originally from the Eastern part of region, are moving to Western European countries to look for greener pastures,” SGH Regional Representative Domagoj Ferdebar said. 

SGH said that the pandemic has exposed the region’s uneven economic realities. It said that many Eastern European countries have wages lower than those in the west of Europe, triggering a workers’ exodus to countries offering relatively higher wages. 

However, workers outside of the region also continue to come to Europe. SGH said that it is becoming common to meet Ukrainians in Poland, Moldavians in Italy and Bosnians in EU Balkan countries. Workers from South Asian countries, like India and Bangladesh are also making a strong presence. 

Described as one of the “least protected, but most affected,”migrant workers continue to face an uncertain future amidst a pandemic that is still far from being contained by many countries.