Editorial: Unemployment problem cannot be addressed unless all levels of govt work together to create jobs within the country
The unemployment problem cannot be addressed unless all levels of govt work together to create jobs within the country
Unemployment is a big problem in Nepal. That is why youths in large numbers migrate to other countries, mostly India, the Middle East, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, where they engage in agriculture, services and manufacturing sectors to earn a living. The side effect of youth migration has, however, reflected in falling gross domestic production (GDP), especially in the agriculture sector, and shortage of labour in the construction sector, which must meet the shortfall by importing labour from India.
The government does not have exact statistics on how many of them migrate to other countries annually, as many of them migrate through informal channels. The mass exodus of the workforce serves as a safety valve for the powers that be and the policymakers, who do not need to worry about creating jobs in the country. Creating job opportunities within the country is a challenging task for all governments worldwide. But the Nepali government gives little priority to addressing this perennial problem that has been confronting the nation since time immemorial.
Everybody had hoped that the government would come out with some concrete plans of action to address the unemployment problem following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that has laid off or furloughed millions of people. The government had also announced that it would focus its attention on creating more job opportunities in the agriculture and construction sectors, where a large number of people can be employed, giving a boost to the national economy. The line ministry — Ministry for Agriculture and Livestock Development — had also come out with an integrated plan in which farmers would get subsidies in the means of production, have easy access to markets and also earn a minimum profit for their agriculture produce. But the plan could not be implemented.
After five months of nationwide lockdown and one month of prohibitory order, around a million people who had returned home from different countries are leaving the country for the host countries from where they had come following the outbreak of the virus.
Migration of around 22,000 people from the Nepalgunj-Jamunaha border point in just a week’s time speaks volumes about the living conditions in Nepal, where they were unable to find any work in their villages.
Some of them are said to have migrated to Himachal Pradesh to pick apples while others are said to have gone to Laddakh region to work as high altitude porters. Others who used to work in Malaysia and the Middle East are also waiting for the renewal of their work permits and visas. But the government seems to be shutting its eyes and ears to this problem assuming as if everything is going fine. This attitude on the part of the government can be detrimental to the well-being of the economy. If the people in midand far-western Nepal can pick apples in India and work as porters in Laddakh or Leh, they can also do the same work here provided the government offers them the same jobs requiring similar skills and expertise.
Things can change for the better when all levels of government sincerely work together to address the unemployment problem.
Count on the Nepalis
A walk through the streets of Thamel, the tourist hub of Kathmandu, says it all. Empty streets, unoccupied hotels, and shops and restaurants sans buyers and customers, at a time when it should have been brimming with tourists and keeping the foreign exchange flowing in. Not only Thamel but all places frequented by visitors across the country this year wear a deserted look due to the coronavirus, which has hit the tourism industry the hardest. With the month of September begins the autumn mountaineering season and other tourist activities, but business is likely to stand static well into the spring season next year.
Can something be done to revive the industry and provide jobs to tens of thousands both in the cities and rural areas? Since foreigners are likely to stay away from Nepal for some time to come, the government is counting on the Nepalis themselves to give tourism a shot in the arm. If managed properly, trekking and other adventure activities as well as safaris could help revive the tourism business in the hinterlands, where cases of the coronavirus have been few.
This will help realise the slogan ‘Tourism and Development’ of the 41st World Tourism Day.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 29, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.