The impact of epidemic infectious diseases on the wellbeing of migrant workers: A systematic review


  • Fei Wang
  • Chao Tian
  • Weidi Qin


Migrant worker, well-being, intervention, epidemic infectious disease


Background: The COVID-19 outbreak poses challenges to people across the world and puts marginalized populations in an even more precarious position. Migrant workers, with their marginal socio-legal status in host countries, are especially vulnerable during the pandemic. The wellbeing of migrant workers, specifically low-wage laborers, is greatly compromised. Objectives: This study aims to systematically review the existing literature on how epidemic infectious diseases affect the wellbeing of migrant workers and what are the interventions to improve their wellbeing. Method: Following the PRISMA guideline, studies on migrant workers’ wellbeing or interventions to improve wellbeing during five major epidemic infectious diseases (i.e., COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, H1N1, MERS) were searched. Eleven electronic databases were used: Cochrane Library, WHO Global Research COVID-19 database, APA PsycInfo, CINAHL Plus, ERIC, MEDLINE, Social Index, PubMed, ProQuest, Social Care Online and EPPI-Mapper. In total, 17 articles that met the criteria were included. An assessment guide was developed to examine the quality of the studies. Results: Overall, the studies consistently show that major epidemic outbreaks negatively affect the physical, financial, psychological and social wellbeing of migrant workers. Migrant workers face a wide range of challenges such as risks of contagion, job insecurity, psychological distress, and discrimination. Factors associated with migrant workers’ marginal socio-economic status were attributed to these challenges. Several interventions were discussed including increased access to vaccinations, health screening at the border, promotion of hygiene strategies, and financial assistance in medical fees. Discussion: The findings highlight the need for a greater public awareness and stronger response to migrant workers’ wellbeing during an epidemic outbreak. Implications to practice and research were discussed. This review calls for more open-access data to advance research on migrant workers, and evidence-based interventions with a long-term effect.


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