The government has started the process to double the compensation amount received by families of migrant workers who die or get injured in their job destinations. The Ministry of Labour and Employment has approved a proposal to provide Rs 300,000 to the families of the deceased, while the injured workers could get as much, at most, depending on the nature of the injury. Only those workers going abroad the legal way will be entitled to the pay.
The decision will benefit families of hundreds of ill-fated workers who die or succumb to injuries every year. The country receives at least three bodies of migrant workers each day, while dozens more return home disabled.
The government estimates some 3 million Nepalis to be working around the world, nearly 90 percent of them in the Gulf and Malaysia. According to the central bank, the country received Rs 543.29 billion in remittance in the fiscal year 2013-14.
The compensation will be paid with the Migrant Workers’ Welfare Fund, set up by the government with foreign job seekers’ money. Each migrant worker contributes Rs 1,000 to the fund for a two-year work tenure. The government has been providing Rs 150,000 to the families of the deceased from the fund while injured workers receive up to Rs 150,000.
Families of the deceased migrants who reached abroad via the formal channel separately get Rs 500,000 in insurance claims, while many others get varying amounts from their employer. State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung said the provision would come into effect within a couple of months. “The draft will be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval after the Law ministry completes the due legal procedure. It won’t take longer,” he said.
The Foreign Employment Promotion Board decided to increase the compensation amount following pressure from stakeholders including rights groups, workers’ unions and recruiting agencies. The FEPB, which manages the fund, faces criticism for failing to introduce welfare programmes despite collecting Rs 2.5 billion from workers. State Minister Gurung said the decision was taken considering the hardships faced by migrants and their families.
“It will be helpful in ridding the migrants and their families, who borrow money on high interest rates from lenders or sell their land to pay for the migration cost,” said Gurung, adding that the government plans to provide more in future.
The government has done very little for the welfare of migrants at home and abroad. Non-government stakeholders say the state has more responsibilities than pay compensation to the injured and the kin of the deceased workers. They have been urging the government to use the fund for training workers, evacuating them during crises, bringing back the bodies of deceased workers, raising awareness, and providing free education to the children of the deceased.
Officials said the Labour Ministry plans to implement old plans and welfare programmes such as opening a labour bank, providing scholarship to children of deceased migrants and giving skill-based training to female migrants and returnees. The ministry is preparing to use the fund as the initial capital to open the bank. There have been reports of the government misusing the fund by, for instance, buying cars for Nepali missions abroad.