Number of Nepali foreign job-seekers on the decline

Govt unsure of the reason for the drop, manpower agencies blame free visa, free ticket provision

Kathmandu, May 6

While government officials are unable to clearly cite the reason for the decline in the number of outbound migrant workers, manpower agencies attribute the fall to the implementation of the ‘free visa, free ticket’ provision.

Official government records show that the number of Nepalis leaving the country for foreign employment has been on a decline since mid-September of last year. The total number of Nepali migrants receiving labour permit as of mid-March of the current fiscal year dropped by 25.20 per cent to 311,850, as against 416,950 in the same period of last fiscal. Meanwhile, the number of women   accounted for only five per cent of the total labour permits granted in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.

“We can’t be sure why less number of Nepali migrant workers are leaving for foreign employment as we haven’t done any research on that front yet,” said Mohan Adhikari, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).

However, according to Bal Bahadur Tamang, former president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), one of the major reasons for the decline in the number of Nepalis leaving for foreign employment is the zero-cost provision.

The country had enforced the provision of ‘free visa, free ticket’ for Nepali migrant workers seeking employment in six Gulf countries — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman— and Malaysia last year. It had also capped the service fees that manpower agencies can charge job-seekers going to the said destinations at Rs 10,000 per person.

Tamang also added that the slowdown of Gulf economies due to drop in the price of oil is also another reason for drop in the number of outbound Nepali migrants.

This logic, however, does not hold much water as the number of Nepali migrants leaving for Saudi Arabia has increased after Malaysia stopped accepting foreign workers since March.

According to DoFE, Saudi Arabia has become the top destination for Nepali migrant workers. As of mid-March of the current fiscal year, around 102,728 Nepalis had taken labour permits to work in Saudi Arabia whereas the figure was 98,246 in the same period of last year.

Meanwhile, 202,828 Nepalis had taken permits for Malaysia by mid-March of last fiscal year and the figure plunged by 77 per cent to 47,267 in the same period of this fiscal, due to the announcement made by the Malaysian government to halt recruitment of all foreign workers. The fact that the value of the ringgit had dropped had also worked as a deterrent for Nepali foreign job-seekers before the Malaysian government’s announcement.

Looking at the official data, the largest number of labour permits was issued in the month of mid-August to mid-September — 40,275, out of which 37,953 were males and the remaining were females. Meanwhile, least number of permits were issued in the month of mid-October to mid-November — 23,061.