Effects of disasters on displaced workers

Alice Chang-Richards, Erica Seville, Suzanne Wilkinson, Ben Walker

Chapter in the book: Resettlement Challenges for Displaced Populations and Refugees pp 185-195.  Part of the Sustainable Development Goals Series. Springer, Cham. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-92498-4_14


Natural disasters can have significant impacts on the workforce in affected regions. There are often widespread disruptions to labour supply due to displacement of people from their jobs, either by disrupting their place of work or by disrupting a worker’s ability to attend work. This research aims to investigate the patterns of impact that disasters have on the workforce and the employment and livelihood issues that emerge during post-disaster recovery. By using comparative case study approach, this research compares recent disaster events, including the June 2013 Southern Alberta floods in Canada, the 2010 and 2011 Queensland floods in Australia, the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami and the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China. It was found that common disaster effects on displaced workers included job and worker displacement, loss of income, disruptions to workers’ livelihoods and creation of additional participation barriers, particularly for females, youth and individuals with lower skill sets. Comparison of different disaster events also revealed insights into how disasters can change the local labour market structure post-disaster. General economic conditions, sectoral structure as well as business and individual coping mechanisms all influence livelihood outcomes for the affected workers. As the post-disaster recovery progresses in Queensland (Australia), Canterbury (New Zealand) and Tohoku (Japan), coordination of employment and livelihood initiatives with housing and other welfare policies is critical for ensuring that job opportunities are available to everyone, especially those with disadvantage.

Scroll to Top