Migrants make up an ever-growing part of Europe’s population. But more than that, migrants are truly a pillar of the European workforce. Their role is particularly important as many work in sectors that are vital for any economy, especially in times of COVID-19. As Fasani and Mazza explain in Immigrant Key Workers: Their Contribution to Europe’s COVID-19 Response , workers who are active in these key sectors are usually called “key-workers”.
Whereas Figure 1 shows the share of workers in different key sectors across Europe, regardless of their origin, Figure 2 highlights how native, EU-mobile and extra-EU key workers are distributed across the above-mentioned categories. Key workers tend to be more present in specific categories, depending on whether they are “EU-mobile”, “extra-EU” or “native”.
Yet, if there is one sector which has been at the front of the fight against COVID-19, it is, of course, the medical sector . Traditionally, its workforce is mainly made up of doctors and nurses. Figure 3, below, highlights the share of foreign-born doctors and nurses across Europe.
Although much of the evidence points at migrants being sort of the “undercover heroes” of our economies, the very same socio-economic category is also one of the main victim of the crisis . “Migrants are much more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its consequences”, states Lorenzo Guadagno, a researcher at IOM (International Organisation for Migration). “Migrants are more at risk not for health-related reasons, but because they’re more exposed to the virus compared to the rest of the population”, Guadagno adds.
“They are employed in sectors which require them to keep going to work and they also have less access to ways of protecting themselves. Living conditions are also an issue, as they often live in places where measures to prevent the spread of the virus are more difficult to adopt”.
So what happens if a migrant gets infected with COVID-19? “Migrants face a lot of challenges when it comes to receiving medical attention , such as not having the necessary status to access it or because priority is usually given to the local populatio