Kathmandu, August 24

Nepal and South Korea are all set to renew the agreement on Employment Permit System (EPS) to allow supply of workers to Korean firms for next two years. In this regard, a delegation of Nepali officials led by State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung left for South Korea on Sunday to renew the pact.

Nepal has been sending workers to Korean firms under the EPS since 2008, a year after the signing of EPS provision, and this will be fourth renewal of the bilateral agreement. Before renewing the agreement, both sides will also propose amendments to the pact and incorporate possible changes, as per the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE).

“The agreement will be renewed with some amendments after holding discussions with the Korean side,” said Govinda Mani Bhurtel, spokesperson for MoLE. He added that State Minister Gurung, among others, will also request the Korean counterpart to increase the quota for Nepali workers under the EPS provision. Korea has been hiring workers under this provision from 15 different countries.

The team is going to South Korea via Malaysia but there is no official programme in Malaysia, according to Bhurtel. The team led by Gurung includes Acting Secretary of MoLE Surya Prasad Shrestha, Director General of Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) Bharat Subedi, MoLE Under Secretary Girija Sharma, among others.

MoLE officials said that Gurung will also request the Korean side to bear the airfare cost while hiring Nepali workers. Aspirants passing the Korean language and medical tests and completing other procedures to leave for Korea are spending around Rs 100,000 at present. MoLE is receiving pressure to make air ticket and visa fee free for job aspirants eyeing Korean market too after it implemented the free visa and ticket provision for workers leaving for seven major labour destinations — Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — in July.

As per the preset schedule, the agreement was supposed to be renewed last year. However, it could not happen due to procedural delays, according to MoLE officials. Nepal and South Korea had signed agreement for EPS provision in 2007 and as of 2014, a total of 28,453 individuals — including 1,723 females — have had the opportunity to work in Korea under the EPS.

Better salary compared to other labour destinations, worker-friendly labour laws and facilities, no discrimination between local and migrant workers and provision of re-entry to South Korea for work after completing first term of three years are some of the major features that have been attracting Nepali youths to the country. Reports say Nepali workers are earning at least Rs 110,000 a month and the Korean government has already decided to

increase the minimum salary of workers to around Rs 117,000 per month from 2016.

This year, more than 51,000 individuals have applied for Korean language test, which is a basic to apply for the EPS jobs. DoFE is preparing to take the test in September and publish the results in October.

Korea is estimated to hire 7,100 individuals, including 4,900 in manufacturing, and 2,200 in agriculture and livestock sectors. Under the EPS, Nepal can send workers in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and service.