Things will remain unchanged unless the govt comes up with policies to absorb the youths within the country

An estimated 7 million Nepali youths are currently employed in many foreign countries, particularly in Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Middle East, as migrant workers, sending billion of rupees back home to support their families and also helping the national economy stay afloat. Nepal received Rs 961 billion in remittances during last fiscal 2020/21, an all-time high, even though the entire world was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The remittances are crucial not only to support the families of the migrant workers but also to keep the country's foreign reserve and maintain the balance of payments. As the country's export has not increased to the desired level, it is the remittances that are helping to sustain our imports round the year. Although economists argue that the remittances are not used in the productive sectors in the country, foreign employment has helped reduce the problem of unemployment back home, and the children of the migrant workers are getting a better education, health care and has helped lift millions of Nepalis out of extreme poverty. Apart from this, most of the youths who have returned home not wishing to go back for foreign employment have started their own businesses and new enterprises, offering jobs to other youths. These are the positive signs of foreign employment and remittances.

However, there are also dark sides of foreign employment.

Foreign employment has emptied the villages of our youths, resulting in acute scarcity of the workforce, especially in the agriculture sector, where intensive hard labour is required.

Emptying of youths from the villages has also resulted in social, cultural and family disintegration.

Arable and fertile farmland has gone fallow as there are only the elderly, women and children left behind in the villages, where people used to cultivate their farmland to support themselves a few decades ago. Most of the families of the migrant workers have shifted to the towns for better education of their children with nobody left to cultivate their land in the villages.

They spend most of the money on their children's education, health care and for purchasing food. Whatever money the families have been able to save is spent on purchasing a plot of land for housing purposes in the towns.

The trend of foreign migration increased shortly after the restoration of democracy in 1990 when the government relaxed its rules and made it easier to go to foreign countries for employment than during the partyless Panchayat regime. The tendency of working in foreign countries will continue unabated unless the government creates more job opportunities within the country. It is also natural to migrate to foreign countries when one is better paid there than at home. In order to encourage the youths to stay back at home and engage themselves in the productive sectors within the country, the government and the private sector need to work together to retain the able workforce by providing them with skills, modern technology and financial support so that they can engage in their own businesses or get better paid than what they usually get in foreign countries.

Things will remain unchanged unless the government comes up with policies backed up by solid programmes to absorb the youths within the country.

Ensure quality

Nepal has yet to come across a model that will give value for money while executing development projects. Always following the rules and regulations stipulated by law has not ensured quality or timely completion of projects. On the other hand, conflicting directives by different ministries have not only created confusion but also stalled development projects included in the annual budget and programme of the local levels. Amidst this situation, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration last week issued a circular to all the local levels directing them to carry out development activities through the user committees under the prevailing laws until further notice.

This is in line with the suggestions given by the 57th and 58th reports of the Auditor General. The reports had suggested transferring the responsibilities of carrying out the development projects to the user committees by making provision for social audit and hearing to ensure quality and timely completion. As the local levels receive huge funds from the central government, it is imperative that a workable procedure is chalked out to make their activities become effective, sustainable and employment-oriented.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 20, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.