Q&A with William Gois, Regional Coordinator, Migrant Forum in Asia
Q: How many migrant workers are there around the world? How many are estimated to be suffering from
wage theft amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: There were more than 164 million migrant workers around the world as of 2017, according to data
from the International Labour Organization (ILO). We believe this number is much higher today as many
countries around the world have increased their demand for migrant workers in recent years. More than
40% of all the workers in Arab States were migrants, according to ILO’s 2017 data, making them the
regions with the highest share of migrants in the labour force.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions. Up to millions suffered from
wage theft.
Q: What is wage theft? How serious is the situation?
Wage theft means migrant workers were faced with job loss or non-payment of wages, forced by
employers to take unpaid leave or reduced wages, sometimes below the minimum wage, confined in
poor living conditions, and with little or no engagement in the work options before them.
Many migrant workers struggled with the dilemma of exercising their right to return in these
circumstances, while others remain stranded in cities without access to services or support, or in border
areas, living in precarious conditions posing as quarantine facilities.
The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) recognizes wage theft as a part and process of
modern slavery.

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