Migrants, Remittances and Covid-19: Remittance Behavior and Economic and Health Vulnerabilities

Migrant worker using mask and eye protection

This report by the Migration, Remittances and Development program discusses the impact that Covid-19 has had on migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. The consequences of Covid-19 are emphasized when considering the impact of migrant job-loss and its effect on remittances sent to their native countries. As of May 15, 2020, there were 36 countries in the world that experienced 94 percent of all Covid-19 cases. Migrants in these 36 countries represent 90 percent of all remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean.

The first section of this report provides an overview of how shelter-in-place mandates due to Covid-19 led to major job-loss among migrants worldwide. This section also discusses migrant health vulnerabilities due to their likelihood of working in high-risk jobs and of having undiagnosed chronic diseases.

The second section examines the impact of Covid-19 on Latin American and Caribbean migrants in the United States.

The third section discusses Latin American and Caribbean migrants globally but with a specific focus on those living and working in Canada, Italy, and Spain.

The conclusion offers necessary public policy recommendations to prevent devastating consequences for migrants affected and for those in the remittance receiving countries.

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Key Findings:

  • Compared to their US-born counterparts, immigrants have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s impact on unemployment through April 2020, especially those working in construction, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality.
  • Among migrants in the US labor force affected by the pandemic, domestic workers are faring the worst in terms of unemployment resulting from shelter-in-place mandates.
  • Migrants are concentrated in occupations that are either suffering massive job-loss due to shelter in place mandates or experiencing high exposure to Covid-19.

  • The negative financial consequences of migrants contracting Covid-19 are compounded by migrants’ low access to public and private health insurance as well as public assistance which serves as a buffer from sudden income loss or unexpected expenses.
  • Estimates suggest that due to unemployment alone, remittances in 2020 will decline by over 10 billion dollars compared to 2019.
  • Globally, migrants from LAC countries reside in countries hard hit by the pandemic, especially Salvadorans and Nicaraguans.
  • Public policies in host countries should provide immediate income assistance to migrants who lost their jobs due to shelter-in-place mandates, including adequate health protections and free care to those working in high exposure occupations.

Download the report here.


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