Asian Labour Migrants and Health: Exploring Policy Routes
This issue brief outlines the key policy challenges governments and other stakeholders face in addressing the health needs of Asian labor migrants today. It highlights the obstacles migrant workers face in accessing health facilities and services at various stages of migration, before proposing five key steps for translating the growing interest in migrant health issues to visible changes on the ground.
Although studies suggest that migrants are generally younger and healthier than native populations, the authors find that this “healthy migrant effect” wanes as migrant workers are exposed to various health risks throughout the migration cycle. Predeparture health assessments often fail to educate migrants about their health needs, rendering them more vulnerable to dangers associated with exploitative and abusive conditions while in transit and upon arrival in the country of destination. Limited access to health services, lack of adequate health insurance, and the psychological impact of separation from family and adjusting to new sociocultural norms further exacerbate health risks in the host country. Upon return, reintegration can also be complicated by health-related issues that migrants, as well as family members left behind, may have incurred during the period of absence.
Confronting these vulnerabilities at each stage of the migration process will require a multisectoral and cross-border approach to migrant health by governments and other stakeholders in both origin and destination countries. The brief presents five recommendations based on an emerging consensus among various stakeholders: conducting a thorough review of existing policies and practices at the national level, designating focal points within governments to coordinate policy and program responses, forging bilateral agreements and region-wide information-sharing mechanisms, standardizing services and protections, and incorporating migrant feedback during policy development and program implementation.
II. Untangling Myths from Realities
III. Health Challenges of Asian Labor Migrants
IV. Towards a Multisectoral and Cross-Border Approach to Migrant Health: Five Recommended Steps