remittances, South Asian laborers in Dubai, South Asian migrant workers in Dubai
Chinese migrant workers wait outside
a job market in Nanjing, China, on
Jan. 30,

Countries Struggle With Rising Numbers of Unemployed Migrant Workers

February 10, 2009 11:28 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Czech Republic is giving migrants workers a plane ticket home and 500 Euros. It is one of several countries dealing with large numbers of unemployed migrants.

Migrants Increasingly Under Fire

The Czech government announced on Monday that it will give recently laid-off foreign workers who volunteer to return to their home countries a free plane ticket and 500 euros. The plan is an attempt to prevent security issues that could result from rising unemployment among workers who previously had flocked to the country from such places as Ukraine, Vietnam, Mongolia, Slovakia and Moldova.

“Many of these people could unfortunately end up with a difficult financial problem and struggle for a living. Then there is a threat that they will end up in a grey zone and become part of criminal networks,” said Interior Minister Ivan Langer.

Other countries are also facing large numbers of unemployed foreign workers. In Russia, where migrants from former Soviet republics in Central Asia already suffered from persecution even during its economic boom, the country is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1998 ruble collapse. Russia, with 10 million migrants, has the second largest immigrant population in the world, behind only the United States.

As job opportunities shrink, Russia’s migrants are facing increasing attacks by the public, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed instituting quotas on work permits issued to migrants. One Moscow-based human rights group recently reported that 10 people have been killed so far this year in racist attacks.

In Italy, human rights group Amnesty International on Monday launched a campaign to stop the expulsion of illegal immigrants. “We ask you with urgency—in line with Italy’s obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention Against Torture—not to forcibly expel any immigrant to a place where he or she risks suffering grave human rights violations,” Amnesty said in a letter released Monday to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. The organization says that immigrants being held on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa are particularly at risk of being expelled without fair legal proceedings.

Background: Job losses hit migrant workers’ families hardest

Dubai’s South Asian laborers, whose families and home countries depend on their remittances, are in trouble as businesses in the United Arab Emirates falter.

Economic analysts are predicting that remittances from the Gulf Arab region could fall by 9 percent in the upcoming year, raising concern about South Asian economies, reports Reuters.

It is estimated that the region is home to about 3 million South Asian laborers, who last year sent 21 percent of global remittances—funds transferred by migrant workers to relatives in their home countries—to nations such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Most migrants work in the construction sector, which has seen abandoned or delayed projects during a slowdown due to falling oil prices that have put a damper on the region’s previously booming real estate market. The price of a barrel of U.S. light sweet crude for December delivery hit an 18-month low on Oct. 27 of $61.30.

Some countries are reporting that, despite the global economic slowdown, remittances continue to be strong, after posting a 38 percent rise globally last year.

In the South Asian country of Bangladesh, the Daily Star reported recently that there was $8.22 billion last year in remittances, compared with $6.55 billion the year before. It is also forecast that they will reach $10 billion by the end of this year, a substantial growth since 2000, when the total was approximately $2 billion.

Remittances are also increasing in Vietnam, where Ho Chi Minh City alone saw $5 billion in remittances last year, up from $3.6 billion in 2007, the Voice of Vietnam reports. In 2008, remittances from overseas to Vietnam totaled $8 billion.

But in the nearby Philippines, The Manila Times reports that foreign currency reserves will likely take a hit this year due to declining remittances from Filipino workers overseas, who usually send money home in the currency of the country where they earn it. Fitch Ratings Inc. said that the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) are expected to be below $37 billion in 2009.

It is also being reported that Western Europe’s economic woes are affecting its migrant workers from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, meaning that their home nations, already suffering from poverty, corruption and unemployment, are primed for trouble. Russia and Western Europe have large numbers of workers from countries such as Moldova, Tajikistan or Albania, many of whom now have less money to send money home to their families.

And in Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer reported in December that remittances were down 17.3 percent, or $28.4 million, during November compared to the same month last year—“the second consecutive month of decline and the single largest monthly decline on record.”

Reference: Remittances


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines