The number of Nepali migrants leaving for jobs to foreign labour destinations dropped in the last fiscal year 2014-15, after a continuous rise in the previous five fiscal years. The decline is attributed to the impact of the devastating earthquakes in April and May and the ongoing row regarding the free visa and ticket provision.
According to officials of the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), around 515,000 Nepali youths obtained labour permit last fiscal year to leave the country for foreign employment. However, the department is yet to release official data of those aspirants who left for jobs through personal initiative during mid-June to mid-July, the final months of last fiscal year.
A total of 527,814 individuals had left the country for jobs in the fiscal year 2013-14. The number of workers opting for foreign employment dropped this year after the earthquakes as they had to stay back at home for reconstruction works. “This figure came down further after July 6, as manpower agencies started an indefinite strike against the free visa and ticket rule,” an official at DoFE said.
The free visa and ticket provision implemented for seven major destinations — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — requires employers of the respective countries to bear the cost of visa and air ticket for hiring workers from Nepal. This heavily reduces the financial burden on outbound workers. However, manpower agencies are in protest citing that the provision needs further homework and consultations with labour receiving countries.
Each year, a huge number of workers are being supplied by Nepali manpower agencies mainly to Gulf nations and Malaysia. In fiscal year 2008-09, a total of 219,965 workers left the country to work abroad, which was a decline by 11.67 per cent as compared to 249,051 individuals who went for foreign employment in the previous fiscal. Supply of workers increased from fiscal year 2010-11 (354,716) and continued till fiscal year 2013-14 when a record high 527,814 youths left for foreign employment.
Nepali manpower agencies claim that the new free visa and ticket system will reduce job opportunities for Nepali workers due to the possibility of employers absorbing workers from markets like Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the Ministry of Labour and Employment said that the new provision would benefit outbound workers besides maintaining a balance in labour force so that the nation does not face shortage of labourers required for reconstruction activities.
It is estimated that the country would need around 300,000 workers for reconstruction works to be carried out during five fiscal years — 2015-16 to 2020-21. “Cities like Kathmandu for long have been facing shortage of workers,” said Ganesh Gurung, foreign employment expert. He added that due to shortage of domestic workers, many Indians and Bangladeshis have been working in Nepal and the wages too have gone up.
The government needs to come up with plans to assure better pay in the country so that the youths are discouraged from leaving for low-paying foreign jobs, according to Gurung. A huge number of Nepali workers choose
foreign employment because of the better opportunities like job guarantee for at least two years, insurance coverage and chance to travel abroad.