EDITORIAL: Exporting labour

No country can achieve prosperity and happiness by exporting the youth — the engine of growth

Nepal is on top of receiving remittances in South Asia in terms of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP). The country’s economy sustains largely because of the inflow of remittances, mainly from the Gulf countries, Malaysia and South Korea. The country receives over Rs 700 billion in remittance annually. This has immensely contributed to reducing poverty rate from 42 per cent to less than 21 per cent in the past two decades, according to Nepal Millennium Development Goals Report. Around 55 per cent Nepali households receive remittances. Around 1,500 youths leave the country every day for employment in the major labour destinations. However, this trend has dipped in the past three years, especially after the 2015 earthquake, according to the Nepal Rastra Bank. Remittances contribute around 27 per cent in the country’s GDP. The labour outflow has also increased to around five per cent in the recent years compared to up to 18 per cent before the earthquake. The inflow of remittances is one of the major sources of foreign exchange reserves.

These facts speak volumes about the importance of labour migration for employment. As Nepal cannot currently absorb all new labour forces that come in the market every year within the country due to lack of enough production base – either in the manufacturing and service or in the agriculture sector – finding new labour destinations is a must pro tem. Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security had formed a panel seeking suggestions on finding new labour destinations for Nepali youths. The panel led by Uday Raj Pandey, former ambassador of Nepal to Saudi Arabia, has identified 19 new labour destinations including six within European Union, Japan, Mauritius, Fiji, China, Russia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives as feasible for Nepali migrant workers. The Pandey-led panel has said the six European countries have the high demand for workers in the agriculture and industrial sectors. However, the report has advised the line ministry to reach a bilateral agreement with each of the countries to secure the labour and human rights of the aspirant Nepali workers, who also should get the free visa, ticket in the new labour destinations. The panel has also asked the ministry to sign a labour deal with India where a large number of Nepalis are working.

The government needs to introduce a standard guideline before sending Nepali workers in the new destinations. Exporting labour is not a lasting solution to the unemployment problem facing the country. No country can achieve prosperity and happiness by exporting its engine of growth. A country needs to create its own robust production base within its geography to absorb its workforce. While sending the youth force outside the country, the government also should pay heed to the social costs associated with family breakdown, migration of dependents from rural to urban centres and lack of legal protection of migrant workers and welfare of their families left behind. These are some of the key issues the government should address by formulating a national policy. Rather than exporting cheap and unskilled labour, the government policy should focus on exporting finished goods by creating a strong production base within the country.

Despicable act

As many as 26 students on Tuesday fell sick after drinking water in their school in Morang. Students of Shree Secondary School in Letang Municipality-9 had complained of unease after drinking the water. When the school management checked the water tank, a 50 ml Cypermethrin bottle was found inside. Cypermethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid used to kill insects. The school did a good job by immediately rushing all the affected to a primary health post in Mangalbare.

Along with education, clean drinking water is also a fundamental right of every child. This is a despicable act on the part of whoever put the insecticide in the water tank of the school. Police have arrested a few suspects and investigation is under way. We call on authorities to ensure that they conduct a prompt and fair investigation and bring the guilty to book at the earliest. Meanwhile, all the schools must learn a lesson from this incident and put in place strict mechanisms to ensure that schoolchildren get to clean drinking water. Children go to the school to study, and schools must ensure a safe environment for them.