Why migrant workers feel stigmatized during pandemic?

Domestic migrant workers have felt more discriminated against in Taiwan during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan’s 700,000 foreign migrant workers have contributed a lot to the country’s economy, but they have still experienced stigma and being negatively labeled for years, and the social atmosphere has become even more hostile under the epidemic.

A recent survey conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital doctors Chen I-ming( 陳宜明) and Chen Hsi-chung (陳錫中) in collaboration with a migrant workers’ non-profit organization One-Forty found that domestic migrant workers generally felt “labeled” and “stigmatized” by the epidemic, and even suffered from mental anguish, sleep problems and other anxiety symptoms.

The epidemic has had a significant impact on people’s lifestyles, causing economic problems such as unemployment and a sense of isolation due to measures such as home isolation.

Studies in countries around the world have found that mental health problems have become more common during the pandemic.

For migrant workers, who are already a minority group in society, previous incidents such as the undocumented migrant workers testing positive for the virus, the increase in the number of confirmed cases of Indonesian migrant workers entering the country, and the cluster infections at the Miaoli electronics factory have raised the public’s concern about migrant workers and increased negative discussions.

Local Chinese-language media reported that Chen I-ming hopes the study can help them understand whether migrant caregivers’ mental health is deteriorating under the epidemic and to understand the associated depression or insomnia that could manifest.

The preliminary survey found that most of the migrant caregivers felt negatively labeled or stigmatized after the cluster infection outbreak, and became more stressed as a result.

Most jobs undertaken by migrant workers are hard, and working alone in a foreign country combined with the intensified social xenophobia experienced under the epidemic has made migrant workers feel stressed, physically and mentally.

In addition, migrant workers are also facing problems such as unemployment and changes in labor policies during this difficult time.

This, coupled with the fact that information about the epidemic is not easily available and migrant workers are not familiar with the Taiwanese medical system, are potential factors that increase the stress migrant workers experience under the epidemic.

Currently, non-profit organizations such as One-Forty are working to translate and distribute real-time information about the epidemic and the rights of migrant workers in terms of vaccinations and medical treatment, in the hopes of building a more friendly and tolerant society and making the outside world pay more attention to the mental health of foreign migrant workers through the epidemic.