Mental Health and Well-being of Blue-collar Migrant Workers in Taiwan during the COVID–19 Pandemic
The COVID–19 pandemic is an important public health issue accompanied by serious economic and social consequences. Since the outbreak, most scientific research has focused on its impacts on clinical medicine and physical health, but paid little attention to the pandemic's impacts on psychological and social well-being. During the pandemic, migrant workers are among the most vulnerable groups. Compared with the local population, migrant workers encounter more barriers in accessing information on relevant COVID– 19 government regulations and protective equipment because of their limited ability to speak local languages and the fact that policies often fail to include them. They are not entitled to the welfare systems in host countries. The travel bans and restrictions on movement constrain their mobility. This study adopts the social determinants of health approach to argue that migration is an essential factor that affects individuals' mental health and well-being. The structural forces, power relations, and social inequalities involved in organizing social life shape migrant workers' mental health and well-being.
This article starts with an introduction to the migration regime and policies in Taiwan, including Taiwan's guest worker system, as well as migrant workers' conditions during the COVID–19 pandemic, to demonstrate the constraints on their labor and health rights. Then, it reviews the relevant studies to identify the multiple structural factors that affect migrant workers' mental health and well-being during the pandemic. Third, the methods section describes research participants and their recruitment, data collection, measurements, and statistical analysis. The survey was conducted from August 12 to December 16, 2021, through online and paper-based anonymous questionnaires by recruiting migrant workers from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand. Based on data from 712 migrant workers, the study examines the impacts of pandemic-related factors (including exposure to the virus, vaccination, impacts of the pandemic on migrant workers' daily lives, difficulties in accessing the outbreak control measures information and prevention materials, perceived discrimination, and attitudes toward prevention measures) on migrant workers' mental health and well-being in Taiwan during the pandemic. The rest of this article is followed by research findings and the discussion. The results show that, first, after the government issued the level-three alert of the COVID–19 outbreak in May 2021, the mental health of migrant workers worsened, and the proportion of migrant workers with poor mental health increased slightly. Second, the greater the perceived impacts of the pandemic on daily life and the greater the perceived difficulties in accessing outbreak control information or materials (were), the lower was the level of mental health experienced by migrant workers. Third, the exposure experiences related to COVID–19 and the perceived impact of the pandemic on daily life are risk factors for poor mental health in migrant workers. The research findings suggest that the adverse effects on migrant workers' mental health and well-being reflect social exclusion due to the migration regime based on the guest workers system. This article concludes with policy implications. Based on the findings, the researchers argue that the Taiwanese government should consider the fact that the COVID–19 pandemic may aggravate the structural vulnerability of migrant workers. Furthermore, they suggest that, in order to protect migrant workers' mental health, the government could consider providing migrant workers with material and financial support as well as employment and health services to mitigate the pandemic's impacts on migrant workers' daily lives and their difficulties in accessing outbreak control materials and information.