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PANDEMIC RETURNS: The impact of COVID-19 on the return of Nepali and Filipino temporary migrant workers

People in a line outside a forested area at Gauriphanta checkpoint in Kailali district returning to work in India

Photo credit: Niranjan Chaudhary

Due to the global pandemic, an unprecedented number of migrant workers from Nepal and the Philippines have returned to their home countries. The purpose of this study is to explore and better understand the social and economic impacts of this reverse migration. Return and reintegration has been a major challenge for labour-sending nations and this research offers insights related to large-scale reintegration of migrant workers and the resilience strategies developed by migrant workers and their families. These insights have the potential to inform national, regional and international consultations on sustainable circular temporary migration regimes.

  • How has the global pandemic changed the livelihoods and future aspirations of temporary migrant workers from Nepal and the Philippines?

COVID-19 is forcing an unprecedented level of reverse migration of temporary labour migrant workers from around the world. The long and pervasive global economic crisis is expected to have devastating consequences for low-paid migrant workers who rely on foreign employment to support their families. Our research focuses on two labour-sending Asian nations with large numbers of migrant workers working outside the country: Nepal and the Philippines. For Nepal, we compare the impacts observed between the cross-border (India-Nepal) returnee migrants and international (apart from India) returnee migrants. For the Philippines, we compare the impacts observed between Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) returning from the Middle East and from Southeast and East Asia.

This study will have a qualitative research design and will use semi-structured in-depth interviews with 40 returnee migrant workers to better understand a) the past migration pathways for the returnee migrants; b) the circumstances surrounding their return; and c) their future aspirations.

Participant recruitment for both projects is underway.

Late 2021. Results of the interview analysis will be available in late summer 2021.

CERC Migration

Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, external link (CESLAM), Kathmandu, Nepal, and Aubrey Tabuga, the Philippines

returnee migrant workers, COVID-19, Nepal, Philippines