The Gulf countries must legally guarantee the safety and security of Nepali women before hiring them as domestic help
The governments of Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached an agreement on Monday to effectively implement and enforce a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on labour agreement signed on June 14. Ram Prasad Ghimire, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security who led the Nepali delegation, said both the governments would set up a labour database, which will be linked between the UAE’s employment database and demand list, Nepal’s Embassy in the UAE, Department of Foreign Employment and the Foreign Employment Management Information System software at the ministry. The new measures are expected to make the migration of Nepali workers to the UAE transparent. As per the agreement, UAE’s employer will bear all the expenses of supplying Nepali workers to the oil-rich country. From now onwards, Nepali workers will not have to bear any expenses except for the fee for the welfare fund, temporary insurance and orientation course. The Nepali workers going to the UAE for employment will not have to pay any service charge to a manpower supplying agency here in Nepal. Instead, the concerned manpower agency will get the service fee from the labour hiring company. How much fee a Nepal-based manpower supplying agency will take from the employer will be a matter of mutual understanding between the two sides, and the governments of both the countries will not enter into this issue, as per the agreement.
During the meeting, the UAE officials had particularly urged the Nepali side to lift the ban imposed on Nepali women from working as housemaids. The Nepal government restricted Nepali women from working in the Gulf countries as domestic help since 2015, following reports of severe physical abuses, sexual exploitation and non-payment to most of the housemaids. However, the UAE has expressed keen interest in hiring a large number of Nepali workers as domestic help as governesses, nurses, housekeepers or cooks. Ghimire has assured them that the issue would be thoroughly discussed during the next meeting before any decision is taken. A large number of aspiring women have been deprived of finding employment in the Gulf countries due to the government restriction. Still, Nepali women have gone to the Gulf as domestic help through illegal channels.
Before lifting the ban on women from working in the Gulf as domestic help, the destination countries must legally guarantee that their safety and security, and the migrants’ rights will be well taken care of. The tendency of going abroad for employment for financial reasons has worked as a safety valve, given the sluggish economy and few job opportunities in the country. Thus, we cannot stop our youths from going abroad for employment overnight. However, supplying labour to other countries is not a solution to end unemployment and poverty in the country. It will ultimately hinder economic growth of the country. Large swathes of fertile land have remained fallow due to a shortage of skilled and unskilled labourers in the agriculture sector. We need to focus on generating employment here by making good use of the remittances. There is a need to create an enabling environment for more investment in the productive sectors to create millions of jobs within the country.
The success of the government’s ‘Energy for all’ campaign largely depends on the promotion of renewable alternative energy from the sun, wind, micro-hydro plants and biogas. Nepal has the goal of providing access to energy to all by 2030 under the SDG. Power from big hydropower plants benefits mostly cities and big towns with sizable populations, but they tend to overlook the needs of the rural areas.
Nepal has good expertise building micro- and small hydropower as well as biogas plants in the country. For a country the size of Nepal, there are today more than half a million biogas plants across the country, which have helped keep our forests intact. However, solar and wind energy is relatively new for Nepal, although the two forms of energy are fast catching up in the rural areas despite their high costs. Alternative energy will, however, be attractive only if its cost is affordable. To keep costs down, the government has so far been providing subsidies. One way to keep costs down is to produce the equipment for solar and wind energy in the country itself as we have done for biogas and micro-hydel projects.
A version of this article appears in print on November 06, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.