Virtual Group Discussion on labour migration in the current COVID19 pandemic

Vienna: After two months of major restrictions on mobility in light of the declared Covid19 pandemic the Budapest Process hosted its first virtual meeting with selected countries. Representatives of 14 countries as well as the European Commission, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) discussed the immediate impacts of Covid19 on labour migration, and how to address them.

Country representatives shared their thoughts and observations on concrete and current challenges for migrant workers; these include immediate actions to regularise labour migrants’ status, receiving returning migrant workers, substantially receding remittances, and protecting labour migrants’ health. Country representatives also discussed possible future trends and how the labour markets, jobs and workers’ permits will be affected.

Ms Natalia Popova from the ILO presented the latest facts and figures on COVID19 impacts on labour migrants, the main challenges identified in the region and ILO’s focus and activities in the current crisis.  In addition, Glen Hodgson from Free Trade Europa provided some information on the gig economy and low-skilled labour migrants from the Silk Routes included in the gig economy, as well as high-skilled migrants in Europe and their perspectives in the long run. Finally, Bernhard Perchinig from ICMPD contributed further insights into medium-skilled migration, highlighting the importance of looking into skills-making, skills-matching and vocational training in receiving and sending countries.

Overall, country representatives welcomed the virtual group discussion. It was striking to note that all countries present had reacted very quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic and put in place several measures regarding labour migrants present in their territories. Experience sharing and discussions on possible future trends contributed further to a positive first virtual meeting. This meeting is the first in a series of meetings on the topic of labour migration.