Ashook Ramsaran, President of the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC), participated in a conference organized by the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT), located in new Delhi, on May 1. It was a virtual conference held over the web that involved several participants making presentations and or engaging in discussions through questions and answers. Mr. ramsaran is based in New York City. Below is his presentation:
Before I begin with my presentation, I request that we observe a MOMENT of SILENCE for those who have lost their lives to Covid 19, including front line medical workers who risk their lives to save others, many of whom have also passed away.
I am honored to be selected to be on this panel with such esteemed presenters, conveners and moderator, as well as many participants worldwide. I understand that there is a large online audience and that is most welcome and reassuring. I look forward to a meaningful discussion on a critically important topic and information which can be useful for today and tomorrow as we confront this epidemic and its global consequences.
While I will focus on the impact of COVID-19 on Indian Diaspora migration to USA and Canada, it will also include the global impact, economically and socially.
There are 7 slides which I have prepared for this presentation and I am putting them on the screen now. I intend to follow this sequence and expand on each of the points shown.
The Current Situation:The graph shows over 235,000 deaths worldwide and over 64,000deaths in USA
These could be under-estimated as reports may not be timely or accurate. The trend is increasing and alarming, affecting every country, some dramatically more than others. Current estimates predict that the trend would continue to climb until and unless a cure and/or vaccine is found, developed and used effectively worldwide. That process could take several months as there are frantic efforts to reach this goal to save lives.
There is and most likely would continue to be a Global Economic Impact in 2021- 2022 with a slow-down of 20% – 25% in manufacturing, energy, services, trade.
This slowdown would result is social disruption of reduction in employment in most countries at home and abroad, such as North America (USA, Canada), Europe and Australia/New Zealand. THE US has suspended issuance of new immigrant visas.
This would also result in reduction in migration at home domestically (from villages to cities) and abroad (external) where economic opportunities would be reduced in the form of reduction in employment needs. In addition, in the USA there is currently a hold on H1B visas currently at 250,000 in the USA (including spouses) and averaging 85,000 new visas annually. My estimation is that there would exceptions for medical workers, software and automation engineers. In addition the US Census 2020 process would be adversely affected, impacting the resources and representation among migrant communities.
There would be reduced migration both domestically and globally due to estimates of 20% to 25% slowdown in employment in most countries at home and abroad. Hence fewer skilled and unskilled workers would be needed domestically in cities as well as abroad. In addition, reduced consumption and the lowered price of fossil fuel and natural gas would significantly limit the number of migrant workers in the Gulf States.
Re: Indian Diaspora – Same pattern except opportunities for skilled medical workers, software, automation, pharmaceutical and bio-engineering which would be in demand as the economies of destination countries begin to revive, although not to the capacity before Covid-19. These countries include Gulf States, Europe and North America, as well as the Oceania region.
The global race for Covid-19 cure and vaccine continues and the length of time to achieve would directly affect economic conditions in various countries and determine the levels of business revival and employment levels, thereby affecting levels of migration.
Estimates are that there would be a 20% to 25% slowdown in employment in most countries for 2021 and gradually revive in 2022 with many industries affected or changed. This would directly affect employment needs and impact the levels of migration.
Migration among the Indian Diaspora would be affected domestically (from rural to urban) and overseas (to destination countries). These migration trends would impact India as well as PIO countries which engage in migration to Gulf States, Europe, North America and Oceania region.
The can be tendency for illegal migration as risks versus benefits are considered, in particular among unskilled labour. In any case, there would be big challenges for the excess pool of both skilled & unskilled migrant labour.
Due to the changing dynamics resulting from Covid-19, there would be more demand for medical expertise and services, pharmaceuticals, software, automation and bio-engineering, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship expertise. In addition, it could increase the opportunities for plant based foods which can be beneficial for Indian Diaspora with those skills and businesses.
Response to question from participant: On Racism against migrants in USA
Yes, there is always some form of racism in USA as seen from 2016 presidential election campaign.
Health, economics and migration are closely intertwined.
Migration can be a contentious issue – except when migrants are needed.
Such as medical workers (doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, home healthcare) and farm workers.
These are the workers most exposed, bearing enormous risks but desperately needed now during this epidemic as the front line workers.
From lessons of the past, once this epidemic is over and society revives to some level of economic activity, it would still see some loss of jobs that can result in targeted discrimination against migrants.