COVID-19 has disrupted labor markets around the world, causing a global manpower shortage.

Lockdowns in the early months of the pandemic triggered an exodus of millions of rural migrant workers from booming megacities like New Delhi and Dhaka. In the Global North, the United Kingdom has experienced the largest decline in its foreign-born labor force since World War II. Countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also have been affected: Vietnam’s labor shortage recently worsened after the easing of travel restrictions in Ho Chi Minh City led to a large outflow of migrant workers.

Moreover, some high-income countries are trying to lure back foreign workers from emerging Asia as part of their national recovery plans, creating new challenges for the global governance of labor migration. In particular, ASEAN economies like Singapore and Malaysia that have large migrant labor flows now face a tricky choice: Should they curb outward migration or encourage greater labor mobility?