Migrant farmworkers in the Italian region of Calabria | Photo: ANSA/Quotidiano Del Sud
Migrant farmworkers in the Italian region of Calabria | Photo: ANSA/Quotidiano Del Sud

A new report reveals that the coronavirus emergency has worsened the situation for many migrants in Italy. More foreign farm workers are reportedly being exploited now, and many domestic workers have since lost their jobs.

Things have become worse for migrant workers in Italy since the coronavirus pandemic started this spring, both in terms of working conditions and health protections, according to the 2020 Statistical Dossier on Immigration. However, the report also states that the full effect COVID-19 has had on the labor market in 2020 "will only be clear at the end of the year."

The report was released by the IDOS Research Center on Wednesday.

Migrant farm worker exploitation up 15 - 20%

Things were already tough for many foreign workers in Italy before COVID-19 — the agriculture sector in particular is known for exploiting migrants during harvest seasons. But things apparently even got worse after the pandemic hit.

The IDOS report cites estimates from the Tempi Moderni Research Center, which found that during the pandemic, the number of "exploited" farm workers increased by 40,000 to 55,000 people — that's a jump of 15 to 20%. Exploitation is defined in this context as excessive work hours for too little remuneration and/or that the working conditions are bad.

"In the two-year period between 2018 and 2019, the rate of irregular workers in farming was at 39%, while during Phase 1 of the COVID emergency it reached 48%," the report said.

The report found that "COVID-19, far from causing a suspension of exploitation, provoked a worsening of living and working conditions for migrant farm workers, which the recent regularization (policy) didn't solve."

Domestic workers also suffering

For foreign domestic workers, the COVID emergency often meant losing their jobs. The IDOS report quoted statistics by Assindatcolf, an association of employers of domestic workers, which found that from March to June 2020, about 12,950 jobs were lost in this field.

However, non-EU domestic workers were able to benefit much more than non-EU farm laborers from the regularization procedure introduced in the government's 'relaunch decree' earlier this year. Of over 200,000 applications filed for short-term regularization, roughly 85% were filed for domestic workers.


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