COVID-19 Pandemic Adds New Urgency to Improve Labor Migration Governance in Ghana and Senegal
WASHINGTON — As in other regions of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended labor migration in West Africa, and with it, an important source to support socioeconomic development through remittance and knowledge transfers, as well as other benefits such as addressing labor market needs. With opportunities to migrate to high-income countries limited and ongoing border closures even within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) free movement area, mobility has been uncertain and fraught. These disruptions come at a time when several countries in the region, including Ghana and Senegal, were embarking on the process of drafting or implementing migration policy frameworks for the first time.
A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) policy brief examines labor migration trends in Ghana and Senegal and offers recommendations for how governments, development actors and other stakeholders can achieve better outcomes for migrants and countries of origin and destination.
While the public-health crisis may have shifted immediate political priorities away from migration governance, recent cooperation on the pandemic response could help lay the groundwork for countries in the region to work together and with destination countries on greater development and capacity-building, including stronger protections for migrant workers, the brief finds.
In 2019, nearly two-thirds of the 10.1 million West African international migrants lived in other West African countries. With Ghana and Senegal both sending and receiving sizable shares of migrants from the ECOWAS region, MPI analysts Camille Le Coz and Kate Hooper underscore the importance of strengthening regional integration efforts and applying consistent policies to ease regional migration, especially as pathways to high-income countries may become more restricted as a result of the pandemic.
Other recommendations include the need for governments to pursue closer (and mutually beneficial) ties with their diasporas, with the pandemic-related economic downturn adding urgency to ongoing international efforts to facilitate the sending of remittances by lowering costs and exploring new channels to transfer money. For diaspora engagement efforts to be sustainable and to maximize their benefits, governments will also need to ensure they are meeting the priorities of diaspora members, whether improving consular services or addressing long-standing diaspora priorities, the authors write.
They also recommend that origin-country policymakers and their international partners create more incentives for recruiters to comply with public-health and labor regulations going forward. The pandemic has disrupted recruitment operations throughout the region and while numbers of migrants on the move remain lower, there is an opportunity to push forward on efforts to enforce these rules.
“The COVID-19 crisis has both disrupted efforts to improve labor migration governance and also vividly illustrated their paramount importance,” Le Coz and Hooper write. “The transnational threat posed by the spread of the virus quickly overwhelmed national responses in West Africa, as elsewhere, making a fresh case for deeper regional cooperation to minimize further disruptions and support strategies to restart mobility.”
You can read the policy brief, Deepening Labor Migration Governance at a Time of Immobility: Lessons from Ghana and Senegal, here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/labor-migration-governance-ghana-senegal.
The brief is the last in the “Critical Migration Governance Issues in a Changed World” series resulting from a partnership between MPI and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). For all of the work in the series, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/international-program/critical-migration-governance-issues-changed-world.
And for a look at the policy interventions that could result in different outcomes for the resumption of international travel and migration, check out the recent report, Future Scenarios for Global Mobility in the Shadow of Pandemic.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.