Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of migrant workers returned from their countries of employment to their families in Lao People’s Democratic Republic. This article focuses on a specific population of migrant workers – Lao women returnee migrant workers in informal employment in Thailand – to explore how COVID-19 impacted their well-being and to what extent their home country’s social protection system supported them. It is based on more than 400 structured interviews with women migrant workers across nine provinces of Laos, who were working abroad in the informal economy and returned to Laos at the beginning of the pandemic. The research documented a rise in unemployment and income loss while aggravating gender inequalities in terms of the division of unpaid care work, discriminatory behaviours, and potential risks of gender-based violence. It identified several policy areas where systemic support for Lao women returnee migrant workers in informal employment should be prioritised: (1) extension of social protection, (2) national labour market strategy plan, (3) migration-sensitive national action plan, and (4) co-ordination between government and civil society organisations.
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