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Rich Nations May Face a World Without Cheap Migrant Labor

Thanks to the coronavirus, workers are headed home or stranded abroad. Will they return when the pandemic is over?

Workers take a break at a construction site in Dubai in 2019. 

Workers take a break at a construction site in Dubai in 2019. 

Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg

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Romanian home-care workers in Italy. Indian construction crews in Dubai. Filipino maids and cooks in Singapore. The world’s wealthy economies depend on a steady flow of cheap labor from lower-income nations. And people in those nations often rely on remittances from family members working abroad.

Now it seems that the coronavirus pandemic that’s crushing economies all over the world is also upending the global labor market. Workers are heading back to their native countries in large numbers—or stranded far from home without jobs and benefits.

Host Stephanie Flanders talks with Bloomberg journalists in three regions for insight into how this is playing out: European economy editor Andrew Langley in London, Middle East economic reporter Abeer Abu Omar in Dubai and Asia economics columnist Daniel Moss in Singapore.