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Managing the Pandemic and Its Aftermath: Economies, Jobs, and International Migration in the Age of COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s immediate costs, measured in lives lost and damaged, have been appalling and continue to rise. In addition, its effects on individuals’ livelihoods and economies around the world have been deep and are likely to be long lasting. While saving lives was the near-exclusive focus during the first phase of the crisis, governments are now trying to strike a delicate balance between preventing further economic damage by reopening parts of their economies, while managing the obvious health risks of doing so.

In the international mobility and migration arenas—policy areas enormously affected by the health and economic effects of the pandemic—this reflection considers both how these fields have fared thus far and the challenges that lay ahead. It first examines how measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus have affected family, labor, and humanitarian migration. It then highlights the thorny questions, as well as some opportunities, policymakers will face going forward.

Among the critical questions: How will countries protect those most vulnerable to the disease and to economic precariousness? Will this become a moment in which governments seek to recalibrate the global trading system, aiming to increase economic self-reliance without falling into protectionism? And will the pandemic prompt countries to rethink aspects of their immigration systems, including how they screen arrivals, the number and types of foreign workers admitted, and the strategies for helping newcomers integrate into a new society?