Across South Asia, migrant workers have been among those most affected by the pandemic. In India the initial lockdown was imposed with only hours’ notice, leading to a mass exodus of migrant workers from major cities—an exodus that in turn proved to be a major conduit of infection. At the same time, South Asian migrant workers abroad found themselves alternately subject to deportation, or stranded and unable to return home.
This has happened before. During the plague epidemic of the 1890s, far more lethal than Covid-19, and again during the “Asian influenza” of 1957-58, migrant workers were the subject of intensive scrutiny, and their movements posed challenges to health policy. This discussion will bridge insights from research into past pandemics in South Asia, and current research on the impact of Covid-19 on migrant workers. How can the interests of migrant workers be better protected? In times of crisis, what sorts of interventions have been most, and least, effective in balancing the interests of workers, their families, employers, and the interests of public health?
These issues will be the focus of the second event in a new series, “The South Asia Development Dialogues: Economic Policy Lessons from History.” A collaboration between the Economic Growth Center and the South Asian Studies Council at Yale University, the series will convene economists, historians, journalists, and policymakers to apply insights from history and economics to the most pressing policy issues confronting contemporary South Asia.
This panel will be moderated by Catherine Cheney '10, a Senior Reporter for Devex, covering the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology, innovation, and philanthropy in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sunil Amrith, the Renu and Anand Dhawan Professor of History and current chair of the South Asian Studies Council, will also lead the discussion.