The government should formulate sound and sustainable policies and programmes to retain the youths within the country
Nepal ranks fourth in the world in terms of size of remittances inflow compared to the gross domestic product (GDP). It is the remittance that keeps the national economy afloat. Nepal received remittances worth Rs 699 billion ($6.56 billion) last fiscal year. This amount is, on an average, 20 per cent of the GDP. Every day on an average, 1,500 Nepalis migrate to overseas, mostly in Malaysia and the Gulf countries, for manual and unskilled jobs. A report released by the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, with the support from the International Organisation for Migration (IoM), International Labour Organisation and The Asia Foundation states that during the past three years – 2015-16 to 2016-17 – Nepali migrants have registered nearly 7,500 complaints, including instances of fraud and malpractice during their recruitment and employment. The report says over half of all households have at least a family member currently working abroad or living at home as a returnee. IoM Nepal Chief of Mission Paul Norton has stressed the need for sound data and accurate analysis to formulate evidence-based policies and implement them effectively.
The report presents a specific thematic issue on skills and occupations of Nepali migrant workers recorded at the Department of Foreign Employment. The report, however, says it does not have any reliable data on labour migration to India where a large number of Nepalis are working. Limited coordination and collaboration between different government agencies addressing the issues affecting migrant workers, centralised government and private recruitment agencies raising the cost of migration, lack of skills recognition and skills matching mechanisms and lack of procedural guidelines on supporting the reintegration of returnees are the major problems seen in the migrating workers. Over-migration of the able workforce has also created labour shortage within the country, leaving fertile land fallow in many parts of the country,.
The government should formulate sound and sustainable policies and programmes to retain its workforce within the country. Skills and experiences brought back by the returnee migrant workers need to be better utilised in the productive sectors, mainly in the agriculture, construction and service sectors where a large number of workforce can be employed at one go. Average monthly wage of the Nepali workers in the labour destination countries is very low as most of them go there as unskilled labourers. It is also true that all workforces cannot be retained within the country due to low productive base. The government, therefore, needs to provide the migrant workers with basic skills and pre-departure orientation and, protect migrants’ rights in the host countries. Implementation of the existing laws and better foreign employment policies can make labour migration process simpler, fairer, more transparent and cost-effective. Income from remittances is not a long-term solution to address the problem of unemployment and poverty. The government should come up with plans to use remittances in the productive sectors in a collective manner.
The Local Level (Operation) Act has the provision of judicial committees. The judicial committees, headed by deputy-mayor or vice-chairperson, have the right to settle disputes and the right to settle disputes through mediation only. But there have been some reports where the heads of judicial committees are failing to deliver justice, largely due to lack of knowledge and understanding. A case in point is Dhani Kumari Khatri, vice-chairperson of Rapti Sonari Rural Municipality in Banke, who is the coordinator of the judicial committee. She admitted that she faced difficulties when she had to hear a divorce case recently.
Since the elected representatives like Khatri are new and inexperienced, they might lack knowledge and experience not only in administrative issues but also in the judicial processes. Well-functioning judicial committees will mean lessening the burden of courts. But unless the judicial committees and their coordinators are trained and empowered, the whole idea of putting them in place will fail. Since 90 per cent positions of deputy-mayor and vice-chairperson are held by women, empowering judicial committees will also mean empowering women.
A version of this article appears in print on April 30, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.