LABOR MIGRATION: Safety Undermined

Although Nepal opened over 130 destinations for Nepalese labor migration and over 2 million Nepalese are sending huge amount of money back home to save the country from bankruptcy. However, Nepal government is yet to take any safe migration initiativ

Sept. 26, 2014, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -8 September. 26- 2014 (Ashoj 10, 2071)

Brij Kumar Sha (name change on request), 34, a resident of Saptari district, spent almost three weeks to proceeds his documents for foreign employment in Saudi Arabia. He roamed from place to place Manpower Company, Department of Passport, Department of Foreign Employment, clinics, insurance company and finally he is now ready to fly to Saudi Arab.

Despite spending such a tedious times, he does not know where he has to work and what safety measures for his in the country he is going to work. “I will be paid equivalent to Rs.30,000.00 (US$ 300) a month with one free meal, 9 hours a day and six days in a week,” Sha said. “This better opportunity and deal than having nothing back home.”

Sha is not a lone Nepalese labor migrating for foreign employment. According to new statistic over 1500 young Nepalese are leaving the country for foreign employment and majority of them does not know where are they going and what is the state of that country as well as their personal safety issue.

Over the years, Nepal has seen huge surge of Nepalese labor migrating for employment in third countries. Nepal government alone opens 130 destinations for foreign employment.  

As there appear so many complications and complexities in foreign employment sector, the labor migration is still governed by Employment Act 2007 with inadequate provisions to deal with the present reality.

There are rampant fraud by individuals and institutions. In the last few years, the numbers of fraud and fraudulent continue to increase as many people aspired for labor migration trapped in the middlemen.

The report of Department’s Investigation and Inquiry Section reveals that they receives the numbers of complains regarding the malpractices and fraudulent by individually and institutionally. The Department of Foreign Employment received 1406 complaints against institutions in 2013/2014 compared to 1060 in 2012/2013.

The casualty of migrant Nepali workers is going high. The Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB) records a total of 842 deaths of Nepali migrant workers in the destination countries during fiscal year 2013/2014 with the heart failure to be reported as the main cause of death as 247 death cases.

“We need to assess and evaluate the date to know the exact reason behind the death,” said led consultant Poudyal.”The report also looks at the remaining gaps and challenges and achievements Nepal has made so far.”

With legal lacunas and inconsistence government policies, Nepal’s foreign employment is in complete mess with migrant workers are cheated from application process to till his return to the country.

Facing all kinds of pressure, Department of Foreign Employment, a regulatory body to regulate entire foreign employment issue, is in saturation stage issuing over 1500 permit to foreign workers. In the just span of less than two years, five director general have already transferred at the department.

“Nepalese migrant workers are facing all kinds of difficulties. They are cheated in almost all process. Although the country is reaping so many benefits, the state failed to make safer and reliable migration for them,” said sociologist Meena Poudel in her program in Radio Sagarmatha.

Although remittance is saving Nepal from going bankrupt, nobody talks on safety, security and other human parts of a Nepalese labor migrating for foreign employment. There are vicious cycles of business interest in the foreign employment trade.

As the country has experienced a surge in out migration for foreign employment to various destination, the government agencies and other stake holders are facing new challenges in managing the migratory cycle ensuing the rights of migrant workers.

Report On Labor Migration

With the lack of basic data and overall status of Nepal’s labor migrating for employment, even the government is in dilemma and uncertain on what to do to regularize and make it safer. Here comes Labor Migration for Employment a Status Report for Nepal; 2013/2014.

Unveiled by secretary at Labor and Employment Bhola Prasad Shivakoti in presence of IOM country representative, The Asia Foundation Country Director George Varghese and representative of ILO, the report also recommended necessary step to make labor migration safer. It also analyses the remaining challenges and gaps as well as achievement.

Prepared with the support from Nepal’s development partners, the International Labor organization, International Organization for Migration and The Asia Foundation, the status report asses and delineate the magnitude of labor migration for foreign employment in Nepal and all its dimensions by collecting and collaborating information available with relevant government agencies in the migration cycle.

Conducted by led consultant Uddhav Raj Poudyal, the report highlights the government led initiative at the policy and structural levels that promote safe migration and the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

“This report is now the property of the Ministry. This is a comprehensive report based on our data bank,” said Bhola Prasad Shivakoti, secretary at the Ministry of Labor and Migration. “The Ministry takes ownership of the report and it will be uploaded in Ministry’s website.”

As there is weak legal regime and data base, labor migrating for employment are cheated by manpower companies, middleman, nursing home, insurance and even middlemen of destination country.

“To make foreign employment more secure and reliable, the government is making effort to sign labor agreement with the countries which want Nepali workers,” said secretary Shivakoti.

According to report, Malaysia receives highest numbers of Nepalese migrant workers followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait respectively.

For centuries hill dominate in migration. However, it is now shifting to plan. According to report, the top ten districts with high volume of migration include Dhanusha, Jhapa, Morang, Siraha, Mahottari Saptari, Nawalparasi, Sunsari, Sarlahi and Rupandehi.

The top five countries female migrant workers are found to be Malaysia, UAE, Qatar, Lebanon and Cyprus. The report reveals that 74 percent of migrant workers are unskilled, 12 percent semi-skilled, about 14 percent skilled and less than 1 percent is as highly skilled or professional.

At a time when there lacks a data base and status of Nepalese migrant workers, legal lacunas in handling it, labor migration for employment is unsafe as well as random.

Contribution of Remittances

According to a report of Tiribhuwan International Airport Labor Desk, everyday over 1600 Nepalese youths are leaving Nepal for foreign employment. During the fiscal year, 2013/2014, a total of 521,878 labor permits were issued by Department of Foreign Employment. Out of this, 94.4 percent were acquired by male. Compared to previous year, this is 16 percent increase in total number.

As the number increases, the remittance flow to the government has also gone up allowing remittances to provide a temporary respite from poverty comes at the expense of demographic dividend, which can provide momentum to the domestic economy.

According to Asian Development Bank Economic Update, the large increase in the number of migrant workers and the incentives to remit more money back home as a result of the weak currency has boasted workers’ remittances inflows which reached a record 28.2 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2013/2014, equivalent to $5.5 billion. Nepal Rastra Bank’s data also showed that the annual remittance contribution to GDP has been increasing since 2011.According to central bank, it represented a 25.7 percent share in 2012/2013 and 29.1 percent share during the first eight months of 2013/2014.

As Nepal is an exceptionally young nation, the number may goes up as there are younger people seeking job in the market. As there lacks the job in domestic market, most of them prefer to go to foreign country.

As this moment in its demography will not return probably in another century, this is Nepal’s lost opportunity. Had the government formulated good policies, they should be engaged in “creating” wealth for the domestic economy, not merely send in money. Experts argue that by leaving the country and creating wealth in other countries is economically strong.

They argue that  foreign employment may help the country short term and remittances may reduce poverty. However, it as a short-term measure without doing much for longer term resilience building.

At present foreign employment does not have options. Thus, the suggestions and recommendation proposed by Labor Migration for Employment a Status Report for Nepal 2013/2014 is timely and helpful to make safer migration for employment.

As the report suggested there need to review the process of approving the appointment letter and awarding a labor permit, in consultation with returned migrants, recruiting agencies and other parties to minimize the opportunity for fraud for misinterpretation by requiring a letter or certificate of affiliation with a principle company.

At a time when person like Sha has been facing a lot of hitches and possibility of cheating in this lengthy process, it is timely for government to make the proceeding easier.

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