EDITORIAL: Ensuring secure work

The govt has just issued a guideline to monitor manpower agencies 35 years after Nepal formally started sending workers abroad

Nepal earned Rs 800 billion in remittances from migrant workers in 11 months of the last fiscal, which stands at around 25 per cent of the country’s total GDP. As the country’s export has remained sluggish for several years, it is only the remittance that is helping to keep our national economy afloat. The remittance is also helping in maintaining the balance of payments and foreign reserves. According to the figures provided by the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE), as many as 508,828 Nepalis migrated to different countries for jobs last fiscal to  support their families back home. On an average, around 1,200 Nepali youths fly to various countries for employment every day. The figure has come down since last year after the government stopped issuing work permits to Malaysia after some agents were found charging hefty sums of money from

the migrant workers in the name of insurance and health checkup. As per the DoFE, the government has given permission to work in as many as 83 countries, and it has also reached bilateral labour deals with seven countries and MoUs with Japan, Saudi Arabia and Mauritius.

However, foreign employment is not hassle-free. Many manpower firms often cheat the aspiring labourers by charging hefty amounts as service fees. There are a total of 1,081 manpower agencies operating across the country. The DoFE’s efforts to stop the cheating of migrant workers had always been ineffective due to lack of a clear guideline. As the guideline has now come into effect since August 2, the department will have more legal teeth to take action against fraudulent manpower agencies. After the Monitoring Team Mobilisation Guideline-2019 was endorsed by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the department on Saturday raided two manpower agencies for collecting fees 12 times higher than the amount fixed by the government and for interviewing job aspirants to Malaysia, a labour destination currently banned by the government, respectively.

The guideline has authorised the department to raid any manpower agency on the basis of verbal or written complaints or on a tip-off. Officials at the DoFE said there were thousands of such complaints related to misconduct of the manpower agencies. The department had failed to act on the complaints due to lack of the guideline. From now onwards, the DoFE says its task force can seek help from the Nepal Police or Armed Police Force for added security during the raid. The task force must submit its raid report to the director general of the DoFE within 24 hours and a final report within three days. It is good news for the migrant workers that the DoFE has taken a bold step in protecting them from being cheated by the recruitment firms. However, the guideline came into force 35 years after Nepal formally started sending Nepalis abroad for work. Besides, the DoFE should also strictly implement the free-visa and free-ticket provision, while ensuring that the Nepali migrant workers get the jobs as specified in the contract papers signed with the employers. The more we protect the rights of the migrant workers, the more secure foreign employment will become.

Children’s hospital

Just like adults, children too suffer from chronic diseases like cancer, mental health, kidney failure and heart problems. But Nepal lacks a multi-specialty comprehensive children’s hospital that caters to the treatment of such children. It is, therefore, heartening to learn that such a specialised hospital is in the offing at Budhanikantha. To spread over 41 ropanis of land, the 100-bed hospital aims to provide systematic health care to 12 million Nepali children at low cost through its 50-bed child health centres to open in each of the provinces. They will provide health services in paediatric oncology, cardiology, child psychiatry and nephrology, among others.

The hospital project is in the good hands of renowned cardiac surgeon Dr Bhagwan Koirala. But it sorely lacks the funds – a whooping Rs 2 billion – for the hospital’s construction. The surgeon has mooted raising funds both inside and outside the country for the noble cause. There are today hundreds of thousands of Nepali expats living in the rich countries of northern America, Europe and Australia, not to mention sizeable communities in Japan and other countries. If promoted well, it should not be too difficult to raise the needed sum.