Armenuhi lives in Shirak province and has two minor children. Like many others in Armenia, for the past years, she and her husband used to go to Moscow, where she worked as a cook in a restaurant and earned livelihood for her family. Over the last months, the COVID-19 outbreak created an unprecedented situation affecting each and everyone including Armenuhi’s family.
The health crisis quickly started to affect all the aspects of life leading to socio-economic issues and development challenges. As labour migrants, Armenuhi and her husband were among the most affected by the pandemic. Country lockdown and movement restrictions left them and many other families unable to return to Russia and resume their work. The family lost their source of income and was unable to meet their basic needs which made them dependent on their parents’ support and assistance.
Mobility is recognized to be a powerful strategy for poverty reduction for migrants and their families, which, in addition, is an important contribution to economic development in countries of origin through remittances, investment, trade, and knowledge exchange. Almost 250,000 people in Armenia rely on income facilitated by mobility remittances sent by family members working abroad, and according to Armenian Statistical Committee 98 percent of the received remittances are spent on basic consumption expenses. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the income of these families has been severely diminished or in some cases interrupted, which continues to threaten the workforce globally.
To tackle COVID-19 socio-economic impacts and support labour migrants, IOM Armenia launched a micro-enterprise development project, which is the fastest and most effective way to improve the social condition of various population groups, including those socially or economically disadvantaged, leading to job creation and reduction of poverty.
“To mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, IOM delivers support to labour migrants to set-up small enterprises by providing micro-grants and business counseling services to ensure sustainable livelihoods by expanding income-generation opportunities for population of poorest, migrant-sending regions of Armenia - Shirak, Lori and Tavush” – says the Head of IOM Office in Armenia, Ilona Ter-Minasyan.
As part of the project, Armenuhi received a micro-grant to start her own business which will help her family to overcome not only the current challenges but become more resilient in the face of future threats. “Due to this great assistance and support to set up a small business, now I am able to run a livestock breeding business in my home country, generate enough income to cover my family’s needs without being forced to leave my relatives and live abroad,” says Armenuhi.
The UN COVID-19 Recover Better Fund will allow additional support to 50 most vulnerable seasonal labour migrants and their families who have been severely affected by the pandemic. It will create an opportunity for the labour migrants to have sustainable financial income with prospects of development beyond the crisis and employment alternative in their home country, also contributing to the local economic development and demographic decline alleviation.
“At the time of COVID 19 crises support to Armenian labour migrants and creation of local employment opportunities is highly prioritized by the Armenian government,” - says the Head of Migration Services of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, Armen Ghazaryan, – “the assistance will have sustainable effect on the development of local communities and prevention of irregular migration”.