EDITORIAL: Explore jobs within

It is better to explore job opportunities in productive areas within the country rather than seeking new labour destinations

The manpower agencies in Nepal are looking for new destinations, particularly in European and the Baltic countries, after migrant workers in the Middle East and Malaysia faced harsh working conditions, low-paying jobs, job insecurity and poor legal remedies from the host countries. A large number of Nepalis have been working in Malaysia and Gulf countries since the government declared these countries as labour destinations following labour agreements with them. Many Nepali workers die due to lack of proper working environment and adverse climate. Although the Nepal government has reached labour agreements with most of the Middle Eastern countries with a view to providing a fair treatment to the migrant workers and protect their interests through legal remedies, most of the agreements are hardly implemented and the employers are not legally compelled to abide by laws of the host nation. Malaysia and the Middle Eastern countries hire unskilled or semi-skilled Nepali workers mostly in construction sector which is hazardous and full of high risk.

Considering all these anomalies, the manpower agencies are exploring new labour destinations in Europe and the Baltic countries where the Nepali labourers can be supplied. Europe has better working conditions and pay, better human rights situation compared to the Middle East and Malaysia. The government has given permission to supply Nepali workers to 110 countries in the world. A cabinet decision is necessary to supply Nepali nationals as labourers in Europe or the Baltic countries. But the manpower agencies themselves are doubtful about the possibility of supplying Nepali labourers in the developed European countries and the Baltic nations fearing overstay due to liberal law. Currently, the European countries are facing immigration problems due to political instability and civil wars in North Africa and in some countries in the Middle East.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment which oversees issues related to migrant workers has yet to take a formal decision. Before taking any decision in this regard, the government must be assured that the European and the Baltic countries are ready to absorb the Nepali workers who are mostly unskilled. It is just an exploration from the manpower agencies. They are now facing survival crisis after the government imposed a “free-visa and free-ticket” provision in the Middle Eastern countries and Malaysia. They cannot charge more than Rs. 10,000 from a job aspirant in these regions. It is the reason why they are looking for Europe and the Baltic countries where Nepali workers can be supplied charging a hefty amount of money as fee and consultant services. The manpower agencies have also not explored properly which of the European and the Baltic countries are looking for what kind of workforce from Nepal. It is immediately unlikely that Nepal will be in a position to supply Nepali workforce to Europe and the Baltic countries given the immigration crisis these countries are facing for the last couple of years. It is, therefore, better to explore job opportunities in productive areas within the country rather than seeking new labour destinations.

Social security

It is a welcome step that the details of more than half of the beneficiaries of government’s social security (1.3 million out of 2.3 million) have already been digitised by the Department of Civil Registration in order to prevent misuse of the social security budget. Already 118 municipalities and 180 village development committees have started distributing the social security allowance through banking channels. At present the country has 217 municipalities and 3,157 VDCs. Absence of banks in many villages has really caused hardship to many beneficiaries.

Several groups of people are eligible for monthly allowance -- senior citizens, single women, members of listed endangered groups, persons with disabilities or incapacitated persons, Dalit families, and two chilidren of each family in the Karnali zone -- and the amount varies from Rs 400 to Rs 2,000 depending on the group. Over the years the social security budget has been misused by corrupt officials of VDCs and municipalities for their personal benefit. In many cases, the offenders have got away scot-free. Digitisation or no digitisation, there should be no leniency shown to such corrupt employees.