Kathmandu, 14 January
As Nepali migrant labourers face greater personal risks and job insecurity in Gulf countries, foreign employment agencies have started exploring new destinations in Europe and the Baltic region.
Nepali workers often complain of harsh job conditions in Gulf countries and lack of assured jobs and wages. They also say they are finding it hard to seek legal remedies.
Bearing this in mind, manpower agencies are making efforts to expand job markets for Nepalis in Europe.
Manpower agencies have convinced the Ministry of Labour and Employment to include Lithuania as a new foreign employment destination for Nepalis. Job aspirants can go to this country after the cabinet approves the ministry’s recommendation.
Manpower agencies are now exploring the possibility of sending Nepali labourers to more prosperous European countries such as Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. These agencies completed a two-week tour to these European countries to explore this possibility. Nepal has already added the Netherlands, Turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Portugal and Belarus as foreign destinations for Nepali migrant labourers.
Only two months ago, the MoLE approved Saipan Island as the 110th foreign employment destination for Nepalis.
But opening western European countries for Nepali labourers might be difficult because those countries fear that Nepalis could exploit liberal legal rules and overstay, said Rohan Gurung, general secretary, Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.
He also said European countries could not be an alternative to Gulf countries for Nepalis immediately, but still the agencies were exploring the possibility of sending Nepalis to these countries for work.
“The harsh working conditions and risk to job and personal security that Nepali workers face in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Malaysia has made us think seriously about finding an alternative job market for Nepali job aspirants,’’ Information Officer Rama Parajuli said. She added that the government was encouraging the agencies to search for those destinations where the work environment is sound and labour laws as well as human rights situation are favourable for migrant workers.
“Almost 90 per cent job-related complaints are from those who have worked in Gulf countries,’’ she said. She also informed that the ministry would map the economy and sustainability of the job market in the proposed destinations. “Lithuania appears a favourable destination,” she added.
The ministry is focusing on working out labour agreement with all foreign employment destinations. According to Mani Ram Bhurtel, MoLE spokesperson, Nepalis are working in 170 countries whereas the government has permitted work in only 110 countries. According to him, the government wants to have labour agreement in place before approving any job destination, but that is not happening as foreign employment seekers want to go to destination countries of choice as soon as they can. The agencies also say labour agreements are not signed immediately because it’s a lengthy process. “Government agencies do not readily trust our proposal for new destinations,” said Gurung. The government has prohibited Nepalis from working in Iraq and Libya.
Manpower agencies can send Nepali labourers to 110 countries. Nepalis can work in 55 other countries on the basis of individual permission.
Compared to the previous year, 27,000 less labourers went to Gulf countries this year.
A version of this article appears in print on January 15, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.