The Covid-19 pandemic presents not just a global health crisis but also a major disruption to economic and social life. While workers on precarious contracts and those in the informal and gig economy have experienced heightened insecurity for the future of their jobs, during the pandemic many low-paid jobs have a shift of status from “low-skill” to “essential”. Migrant workers, who often occupy such positions, have shouldered a significant part of the “key” work of social reproduction. It remains unclear how this crisis affects social perceptions of the value of work and the link between “skill,” “risk,” and “reward.” This project explores this shift from “low-skilled” to “essential” work during the Covid-19 pandemic through the case of Venezuelan migrants in Argentina. From 2014 to 2019, Argentina’s government attracted over 150,000 high-skilled Venezuelans, promising gainful employment, but a recession and a political crisis left many precariously employed and politically invisible in the informal and gig economy. The outbreak of Covid-19 brought Venezuelan migrants back to media and political attention as “essential” workers. Yet, how do “high-skilled” Venezuelans experience this new visibility? Does being on the “frontline” change or reinforce their perception of what “skill” and “value” mean in relation to work, social welfare provision, and social solidarity? Through a survey among Venezuelan migrants and analysis of publicly available datasets and media coverage, we map the state, media, and community response to Venezuelan migrants during the pandemic. We aim to inform a migrant-sensitive policy, reflecting shifting perceptions of the value of work.
Lecturer, School of Histories, Languages, and Cultures, University of Liverpool
Jésica Lorena Pla
Permanent Research Fellow, Research Institute Gino Germani, University of Buenos Aires