Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Beyond gratitude: lessons learned from migrants’ contribution to the Covid-19 response

Working papers

Written by Claire Kumar, Elsa Oommen, Federica Fragapane, Marta Foresti

A desire to capture the contribution of migrants during the pandemic inspired us to begin the systematic tracking of events across the globe over the past year. We wanted to make migrants’ essential work more visible, track the innovations and reforms that have enhanced their contribution during the emergency, and draw lessons from these experiences to inform long-term reforms and policies. We have observed many national and local governments relaxing migration regulations and creating new incentives for migrant workers in essential services, demonstrating that migration policies – regardless of today’s increasingly polarised debates – can and do change when necessary. This matters for the post-pandemic recovery, given that countries will continue to rely on migrant workers of all skill levels. We all must ensure that these changes are lasting.

The following policy recommendations emerge from our research:

  • Enhance routes to regularisation, in recognition of migrants’ vital contribution to essential services.
  • Expand legal migration pathways, ensuring safe working conditions for all, to support post-Covid-19 global recovery, tackle shortages in essential workforces and fill skills gaps.
  • Ensure that migrants, whatever their status, have access to key basic services and social protection.
  • Detach immigration policies from inflexible ‘low’ and ‘high’ skills classifications. Workers of all skill levels will be essential in the long path to recovery.