Impact of Covid-19 on the Socio-economic Conditions and Access to Health Care Services of International Female Migrants and their Left-behind Families in Indonesia

  • Henny Rosalinda

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Indonesia has been sending migrant workers since the 70s and these are mostly dominated by females. They mainly worked in low-skilled occupations such as housemaids. As a migrant they took the family’s breadwinner role and contributed to the local and national economy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, migrant women and their left-behind families underwent economic hardships that destabilised their socio-economic well-being. Although there is much global research, there is limited research on the impact of the pandemic on the socio-economic wellbeing and access to health care of Indonesian female migrant workers and the left-behind family. There is also limited analysis of the existing Government policies related to international female migrant workers and their families during the Covid-19 pandemic. The objective of the study was to identify and study the impact of Covid-19 on socio-economic conditions and access to health services on Indonesian female migrant workers and their left-behind families. It also examined Indonesian policymakers’ responses on current policies and their scope to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and help develop policies to address future global emergences.
The research was carried out from September 2020 – May 2021. It may be noted that the data collection took place when the pandemic was at its early stages i.e. during the first wave. The study adopted a mixed methods design consisting of a household survey, in-depth interviews with left-behind family, an online survey with international female migrant workers, interviews with international female migrants, interviews with related policymakers, and a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) with stakeholders. The household survey (605 households) and left-behind family interviews (31) took place in Sukowilangun Village, Malang Regency, East Java Province, Indonesia. The international female migrant interviews (31), policymaker interviews (14), and FGD (2) were undertaken through WhatsApp and Zoom platforms. The online survey of international female migrants was carried out by emailing questionnaires/web links through the web-based application “KoBoToolbox”. A total of 2,827 migrants participated in the survey, which after cleaning for completeness led to 1,734 cases. The quantitative analysis involved multivariate regression analysis. The qualitative data have been analysed with the themes derived from information pertinent to the research question. Analysis was supported by NVivo-12 software.
The economic impact of the pandemic includes job loss, reduced salary, delayed payment of salary and reduced remittances. Overall, at the time of the online survey, about 7% were unemployed and about 10% experienced salary cut and 12% salary delay. The economic impact on the migrant was reflected on the left-behind family primarily via reduced remittances (23%). This had a direct impact on meeting daily necessities, arranging online education of children, repaying loans, continuing house construction and renovation, and parent care.
The social well-being experienced by migrants included prolonged working hours, return home issues during the pandemic, and seeking help from the Overseas Mission. About 34% women reported prolonged working hours. The study confirmed social wellbeing impact with a knock-on-effect on health and social wellbeing of the migrant and left-behind family.
The study found no evidence of notable barriers to Covid-19 testing and treatment for the migrant women. However, the cost of tests, treatment, and the belief that Covid-19 did not exist were some of the barriers identified for the left-behind family. For the migrants, Covid-19 tests, treatment, and self-isolation services were provided primarily by the employers. For the left-behind, costs were met by insurance, Government, and some from personal funds.
The Overseas Mission provided financial, counselling, legal and return home assistance for the migrants. However, limited manpower in Overseas Missions and limited policies directly addressed to migrants and their family issues, particularly during the pandemic, were reportedly limiting the services of the Mission. Although female migrants contributed to the economic development of their country via foreign remittances, their left-behind families did not receive targeted economic support from the national or local Governments during the pandemic. Policies that connect international migrants and their left-behind families for the provision of economic and social services are required, as one influences the other.
A limitation of the study is that it was carried out at the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and the migrants surveyed may not have experienced the full scale of the impact due to the pandemic.
Date of Award11 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorSasee Pallikadavath (Supervisor) & Tamsin Bradley (Supervisor)

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