Dr Bilesha Weeraratne Discusses Pandemic-Induced Wage Theft Experienced by Migrant Workers

02-03 February 2023

COVID-19 pandemic-related labour market issues and rapid departure from countries of destination exacerbated wage theft issues for migrant workers. According to IPS Research Fellow Dr Bilesha Weeraratne, non-payment of due wages is more common among vulnerable migrant workers.

Dr Weeraratne made these remarks while presenting her research paper titled ‘COVID-19 Pandemic-Induced Wage Theft: Evidence from Sri Lankan Migrant Workers’ at the conference on ‘COVID-19 Return Migration Phenomena: Experiences from South and Southeast Asia’ organised by Africa Institute for Research in Economics and Social Sciences (AIRESS) and Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique, Rabat, Morocco. Dr. Weeraratne discussed various aspects of wage theft experienced by migrant workers who returned to Sri Lanka during the pandemic, including non-negotiable wage reductions, delays and non-payment of salary dues, non-provision of other dues and benefits, unconsented setting off of benefits, non-transparent calculation of benefits, and holding migrant workers in bonded labour situations. She emphasised the importance of behavioural changes in migrant workers and employers in combating wage theft and strengthening the legislature to protect victimised migrant workers.