GFEMS South Asia COVID-19 Rapid Assessments

In 2020, the onset of the pandemic presented an immediate and pressing need to better understand the multi-faceted impacts of COVID-19 on sex workers', migrant workers' and garment factory workers' conditions and vulnerabilities. NORC's International Programs Department (INPRO) conducted three rapid assessments of the impacts of COVID-19 on the Trafficking in Persons sector in India and Bangladesh for the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS). The study focused on vulnerable populations in three sectors - commercial and sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), overseas labor recruitment (OLR) and the ready-made garments (RMG) sector.

The rapid assessments used key informant interviews with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, web surveys and innovative web scraping methodologies to identify the short- and long-term implications of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and policy actors working in these sectors. The teams conducted a total of 63 key informant interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, including government officials, donor agencies, national and international NGOs and recruitment agencies. For the CSEC rapid assessment, quantitative data collection methods include social media-based web surveys, as well as web scraping from online sex sites. Simultaneously, we also conducted three rapid systematic desk reviews of recently published media articles, reports, white papers, and other online content to inform the research questions and data collection. The teams produced detailed reports and shorter policy briefs with actionable policy and programmatic recommendations.

Over the last 6 months, INPRO staff worked diligently and within an extremely tight timeline to identify innovative remote data collection methods, circumvent pandemic-related challenges, successfully completed the study and produced rapid yet rigorous research findings to inform policy and programmatic recommendations.

The rapid assessments have garnered attention from various stakeholders, including the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (formerly DFID) and the global Monitoring and Evaluation for Trafficking in Persons Community, following which the project team has presented study findings at many virtual webinars and conferences. In addition to completing project deliverables (desk report, final report and policy brief), the team is actively pursuing other dissemination opportunities to not only share findings in real time, but to also build NORC’s sectoral presence. The team submitted three abstracts to the Journal of Modern Slavery, all of which were accepted for full article submissions in the Journal's COVID-19 special issue, to be published in Spring 2021.