As the country has fallen deep into the spiral of political instability, the number of workers going abroad in the search of better opportunities has gone up by many folds in the recent years. According to the department of foreign employment, some 1228 Nepali is going abroad every day. Previously, only a few women used to go abroad for employment, but now the trend is rising rapidly.
The number of female workers abroad is expected to be around 5 to 6 lakhs. As the women use alternative routes and there is the lack of official documentation, it has become difficult to know the exact number Nepalese women working in foreign countries.
Remittances have become one of the main sources of the nation’s economy. They constitute around 23 percent of the total GDP. In the total, the contribution of the female workers is going up every year. Despite their contribution, the work done by them is yet to get the needed attention and recognition.
The money that women migrant workers are remitting back to the nation is mainly used for the repayment of their debt, which, in several instances, they would have taken on a very high rate of interest. Otherwise, it goes to meet the immediate consumption need of their family members, rather than in investing in some productive sectors. Hence, despite all the hard work, women workers are facing an uncertain future.
A majority of the women workers has no concrete plan for the future or for their old age as their earning is spent for immediate consumption. In such a scenario, the government should introduce some training and launch some schemes for women so that they can plan and save for the future and help use remittances in some productive sectors, say women right activists.
“Banks, the government and the whole economy have benefited from the contribution of women migrant workers. Now, they should bring schemes and give suggestions to women as they are the ones that are benefitting from remittances,” said Sharu Joshi Shrestha, Program Specialist, UN Women.
Women are facing hard times, despite earning abroad, their lack of knowledge has added to their plight. Some are again returning towards foreign countries after consuming all the money they earned, in daily expenses.
“The investment I have made to work abroad will financially cripple my family if I’m unsuccessful. Once, I return, I plan to invest my earning in an office, buy a house and a car. I do not have much idea about investment possibilities and financial schemes, but would like to know where I can invest safely, so that I do not have to go for foreign employment again,” said GeetaThagimaya Khattri, a young migrant woman worker.
“Remittance also needs to be analyzed in a disaggregated manner especially in terms of impact and use of the remittance received from both men and women,” according to Saru Joshi.
Remittances not only bring in economic benefits but also bring in various social benefits. “Remittances have mainly two aspects—economic and social. Women are bringing not only cash but also social remittance i.e. knowledge, skill, training and exposure. Many women have shared that foreign employment has helped to expand their horizon of opportunities and capabilities,” said Joshi.
But sadly, very few have been able to completely exploit the benefits and use it in their own nation in a productive manner.
A study conducted on “International Labour Migration of Nepalese Women: The Impact of Remittance on Poverty Reduction” by Dr. Chandra Bhadra some years back has already stated that women’s remittance has been able to contribute in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially 1 (End poverty and hunger) and also contributing to Goal 2 (Universal education), 3 (Gender equality), 4 (Child health) and 5 (Maternal health), along with economic aspects.
But from the individual point of view they are not getting the benefits that they should actually get despite their contribution to the economy and society. Hence, the government should give proper attention to the causes of migrant female workers as they are leaving their family and their nation behind just for the sake of sustainability.
“I wonder if money is everything. How will I be able to compensate for all those years that I would lose being away from my husband and specially from my children who need me the most?,” said Sabitri Devi Sivakoti, another migrant women, who is among many who are forced to go to foreign employment.
The workers have also complaints that it’s too expensive to send money to their relatives in Nepal and the government should make money transfer less expensive and encourage money transfer agencies for a broader reach. “I remitted home every three months through money transfer and the truncation cost me some NRs. 1,250 which I think is very high for us,” said Bipana K.C.