Objective: The aims of the study were: (1) to clarify the definitions of "migrant" used in occupational health research; (2) to summarize migrant workers' industry sectors, occupations and employment conditions; (3) to identify the occupational health and safety services available to migrant workers; (4) to summarize work-related health problems found among migrant workers; (5) to identify the methodological challenges to research into occupational health of migrant workers; and (6) to recommend improvements in migrant occupational health research.
Methods: This position paper was prepared by researchers from several European countries and Australia, working within the EU COST Action OMEGA-NET. The paper drew on two recent systematic reviews on the occupational health of international migrant workers and other literature, and also identified uncertainties and gaps in the research literature. Migrants may, for example, be temporary or permanent, moving for specific jobs migrants or other reasons. Their ethnicity and language capabilities will affect their work opportunities.
Results: The occupational health literature seldom adequately identifies the heterogeneity or characteristics of the migrant group being studied. Migrants tend to work in more physically and mentally demanding environments with higher exposures than native workers. Migrants tend to have an increased risk of physical and mental ill health, but less access to health care services. This has been demonstrated recently by high rates of COVID-19 and less access to health care. There have been a number of cross-sectional studies of migrant health but few long-term cohort studies were identified. Other study designs, such as registry-based studies, surveys and qualitative studies may complement cross-sectional studies. Mixed-methodology studies would be valuable in research on migrants' occupational health. Language and lack of trust are barriers to migrant research participation.
Conclusion: Targeted research, especially longitudinal, identifying how these economically important but often-vulnerable workers can be best assisted is needed. Researchers should identify the characteristics of the migrant workers that they are studying including visa/migration circumstances (temporary, permanent, undocumented), racial and ethnic characteristics, existing skills and language abilities.
Keywords: Migrant workers; Native workers; Occupational health; Study design; Work-related health; Working conditions.
© 2021. The Author(s).