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Migrant workers are returning to Southeast Asia in large numbers as governments grapple with how best to keep them employed. Photo: Ina Carolino

As a result of COVID-1 9, income levels and remittances are falling in countless parts of Asia due to migrant workers returning to their country of origin, often to rural areas. For Southeast Asia, remittance acknowledgments are predicted to fall by around $12 billion in 2020, if continuing trend continue. Furthermore, farmers face input shortfalls, restrictive access to markets and overall lower is asking for their cause. Not only has food access been restricted, but COVID-1 9 has also heavily disrupted food production and agricultural appraise bonds overall.

Nonetheless, for Southeast Asia and beyond, the agriculture sector plays a key role in economic recovery and in kerb the effects of COVID-1 9. Countries will need to focus on agricultural income and the creation of job opportunities to assimilate both returning urban migrants and domestic workers suffering from job losses due to the pandemic.

How are a number of countries in Southeast Asia addressing the issues associated with returning urban migrants?

In Cambodia, the government is encouraging laid-off works to return to their home provinces and start small-scale farming. The government is providing them with a temporary adjustment of $40 monthly and plans to deliver added technical support to farmers. So far, the country’s economy has lost around 400,000 employment opportunities in 2020, with around 100,000 works returning back- chiefly from Thailand. At the agriculture sector’s current stage, nonetheless, these capabilities to suck added proletariat is limited.

The capacity to suck added labor is further constrained by the rice-dependent sector suffering from major droughts in recent years, with numerous famers striving employment in neighboring countries where wages are often several times higher. Furthermore, small-scale landholdings, high agricultural input rates, and traditional agriculture traditions further limit the sector to take over additional proletariat. To address these challenges, the government is disbursing $50 million through the Rural Development and Agricultural Bank to provide low-interest loans to farmers and small and medium enterprises.

This capital injection aims to widen the agri-food system and will support production, processing and agribusiness. With more laborers propagandizing into the Cambodian agriculture sector, there is a need to promote agro-processing even further and procreate the sector more diverse. Skilled returning labor can also play a key role in facilitating the sector’s development by providing knowledge on climate-smart agriculture and new agricultural procedures brought in from other countries.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has also evidenced tens of thousands of returning craftsmen from neighboring countries and remittances have decreased by around $125 million, disproportionately changing lower-income households in rural areas. The agriculture sector previously exerts about three quarters of the country’s workforce- the highest level of Southeast Asia – starting it even harder to absorb additional returnees.

How are a number of countries in Southeast Asia addressing the issues associated with returning rural moves?

It is estimated that there is only one open position available for every 12 returning jobseekers. Nevertheless, local authorities are particularly keen to utilize international skills and knowledge of returning young people to help strengthen and advance agriculture, especially in remote areas. To expand agricultural opportunities further, the government is focusing on increasing its export market share, especially to the People’s Republic of China. To do so, it must enhance its food safety standards, including the necessary sanitary and phytosanitary quantifies. Additionally, the government must better connect farmers to( export) markets, especially for fresh and perishable makes, and ensure freer campaign within and across the country.

In the Philippines, more than 400,000 overseas employees are expected to return home by the end of 2020. The government is already putting free reskill programs in place. The agricultural sector will represent a crucial role in the country’s recovery from COVID-1 9 impacts, albeit struggling with persistent low labor productivity. Median wages for non-agricultural workers are about 10% higher than the maximum daily wage rate in agriculture. For the sector to suck added incoming proletariat, it needs to modernize and improve its competitiveness.

As shown during the pandemic, e-marketing of agro-food has grown tremendously. This tend of agricultural digitalization is likely to continue, ranging from product, to processing, transportation, and marketing of agricultural goods. Profoundly, the government is pushing for “new thinking” in agriculture, focusing on modernization and value-addition in order to be an engine of increment and create a much-needed capacity for( rural) proletariat absorption.

Putting the freedom policies in place will be critical in coming months and years. The agriculture sector in countless Southeast Asia countries already has commonly known shortfalls, even before the pandemic struck. These include low-grade proletariat productivity, low-grade diversification, low levels of mechanization and limited value-addition. Absorbing additional strive will both be an enormous challenge as well as an opportunity.

Returning urban migrants are often highly skilled and home countries can use this potential by creating the claim job opportunities. Through targeted policies and programs, returning labor can strengthen agricultural evaluate bonds through story infrastructure know-how, engineering abilities, and infusing rural areas with brand-new farm procedures and digitalization.

This becomes increasingly important as many countries are facing climate change challenges and need to adapt to new production systems. With the liberty motivations, raising can be made attractive again, especially for young people, and a brand-new managerial base in agricultural products can be born.

covid, covid-1 9, coronavirus, novel coronavirus, corona virus, covid-1 9 response, communicable diseases, infectious diseases, migration, migrant workers, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, labor plans, OFW, overseas workers, Overseas Filipino Workers, agriculture employeesProtecting the remittance lifeline from COVID-1 9’s economic falloutTracking COVID-1 9’s destroying charge on Asia’s remittancesCOVID-1 9 is a serious blow to the remittances that millions of families is conditional uponMatthias LeitnerCountries: Brunei DarussalamCambodiaIndonesiaLao People’s Democratic RepublicMalaysiaMyanmarPhilippinesSingaporeTaipei, ChinaThailandViet NamArticle

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