IJERPH, Vol. 19, Pages 6224: Informality, Social Citizenship, and Wellbeing among Migrant Workers in Costa Rica in the Context of COVID-19 (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Costa Rica is home to 557,000 migrants, whose disproportionate exposure to precarious, dangerous, and informal work has resulted in persistent inequities in health and wellbeing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used a novel multimodal grounded approach synthesizing documentary film, experiential education, and academic research to explore socioecological wellbeing among Nicaraguan migrant workers in Costa Rica. Participants pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as exacerbating the underlying conditions of vulnerability, such as precarity and informality, dangerous working conditions, social and systemic discrimination, and additional burdens faced by women. However, the narrative that emerged most consistently in shaping migrants’ experience of marginalization were challenges in obtaining documentation—both in the form of legal residency and health insurance coverage. Our results demonstrate that, in spite of Costa Rica’s acclaimed social welfare policies, migrant workers continue to face exclusion due to administrative, social, and financial barriers. These findings paint a rich picture of how multiple intersections of precarious, informal, and dangerous working conditions; social and systemic discrimination; gendered occupational challenges; and access to legal residency and health insurance coverage combine to prevent the full achievement of a shared minimum standard of social and economic security for migrant workers in Costa Rica.