Pride and pains of labour immigration
Kathmandu, January 12:
Buoyed by the Maoist insurgency and growing unemployment, labour migration from Nepal has skyrocketed in recent times. The resulting remittance has become a major prop for the national economy. Despite September 1, the number of manpower agencies has also gone up. Despite many manpower agencies failing to comply with Foreign Employment Regulations and the National Labour Policy, the government has failed to bring them to book.
“I don’t blame only the government. Both manpower agencies and the government are responsible for the malpractices in this trade,” says Mahendra Kumar Rana, managing director of Sakura International Employment Consultancy, which has sent more than 700 Nepali workers to Malaysia within the last one year. “In the absence of strict implementation of law, this sector is becoming vulnerable,” says another consultant. Deaths in foreign lands, reneging on contracts and facilities and arrests by immigration officials are some of the problems that Nepali immigrant workers face. Urba Datta Panta, minister of state for labour and transport management agrees, “Some of the problems occur due to lack workers’ credibility. It also depends on the honesty of manpower agencies, Before sending workers abroad, agencies must explain all the rules and regulations, terms and conditions to the workers.”
“Some workers leave a company which is against the contract. Others try to overstay, which leads to problems,” says Rana. “We have always clarified the terms and conditions to workers before sending them abroad. The result is that we have not received any complaint yet,” he adds. Speaking on the issue of bipartite agreements between Nepal and other countries on labour issues, the minister says, “It is indeed needed. But other countries must also show a willingness. We are a signatory of the UN agency IOM, that takes care of migrant workers world-wide,” he adds Labour migration is a privately-organised affair in Nepal. “This is the age of privatisation. So, the private sector must come forward. But it must be professional,” Pant says. “Intense competition between the manpower agencies has taken an unprofessional turn. In order to win ‘business’, some agencies send workers on very low wages” accepts Rana. A report on ‘Nepal’s Dependence on Exporting Labour’ by David Seddon, professor of development studies at the University of East Anglia, states that ‘one of the major exports of Nepal is labour, and most rural households now depend on at least one member’s earnings from employment away from home and often from abroad.’ Malaysia tops the list of most favoured labour destination followed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Seddon also notes in the report that government’s failure in developing a coherent labour export policy. “Although this tiny land-locked Himalayan Kingdom recognises both the contribution remittances make to the national accounts and the increasing demand for Nepali workers abroad, the government is struggling to keep up with these trends,” he adds.
The government can not ignore the importance of a sector that fetches around Rs 100 billion remittances annually.
With the approval of the Labour Act of 1985, Nepal officially recognised the value of foreign labour migration.