Kathmandu, February 9:

The number of out-bound migrant workers has dropped substantially by around 246 to 410 from 656 per day since a couple of months. At the same time, the rate of Nepalis returning is increasing, said experts here today at an interaction on ‘What after Nepali workers return?’, organised by the Group of Labour Journalists (GLJ).

They opined that government must be prepared with a package programme to deal with the tide of returnees.

“The government is prepared to deal with them and we have called a two-day brain storming session in this regard on February 12-13,” said Minister for Labour and Transport Management Lekhraj Bhatta.

“For a short-term solution we have decided to refund 40 per cent and 25 per cent of their expenses respectively, if they return within six months and a year,” he said adding that as a long-term solution the government must provide them jobs apart from finding alternative destinations.

The brainstorming session on February 12-13 will have ambassadors and foreign ministry officials as it is a matter between countries and falls under the jurisdiction of the foreign ministry. “Our diplomatic missions abroad have also failed us,” Bhatta admitted.

“Our diplomatic missions should be mobilised to save the jobs of Nepali workers abroad,” said Dr Shanker Sharma, former vice-president of National Planning Commission. “Jobs of around 3,00,000 unskilled workers in foreign lands are at risk,” he said adding that Nepal will feel the heat of the labour lay-off from the second half of 2009 till the third quarter of 2010. Remittance has been not only keeping the economy afloat it has been helping reduce poverty also, Dr Sharma opined.

“Every minute, Nepal gets more than Rs 2,00,000 as remittance,” said Ganesh Gurung, a social scientist. “But the number of Nepali migrant workers has dropped and that will ultimately hit the economy,” he said adding that apart from that it has brought change in the society as the family is at present headed by women. “Women are involved in the decision making of family matters in the absence of their husbands,” Gurung added. He also said that the security of the migrant labour was a major concern. “Everyday, two dead Nepalis are sent back home in bodybags,” he pointed out.

Tilak Ranabhat, president of the Nepal Foreign Employment Agencies’ Association (NFEAA), said on the occasion that the en masse return might lead to social problems as the

returnees have no skills and no jobs at all.

Taking a cue from the global economic meltdown, the Gulf countries, major markets for Nepali migrant workers, have started reducing workforce strength especially unskilled hands and those working in manufacturing and service sectors.