Nepal | September 29, 2020

Increasing remittance: More pain than gain

Atindra Dahal
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The government must act now to retain our youths within the country.  Development is a gradual process and unless we create ample employment opportunities for our youths at home, prosperity will remain a pipedream

foreign employment recruiters and Nepali migrantsYouths, the power-house for the development of nation, are increasingly departing for foreign countries in search of employment. Currently, about five million Nepali youths are in foreign jobs.

It is estimated that nearly 1,500 Nepali men and women leave the country every day in search of jobs, mostly in the Gulf nations and Malaysia.

Every year, approximately half a million youths seek foreign work permit. There is no record of Nepalis working in India, or those who have been to India through personal contacts or for studies.

Sense of financial insecurity is forcing youths to leave the country.

Nepali youths may be leaving the country due to frustration, but the money the country receives in the form of remittance from them, however, has been sustaining Nepal’s economy. Economists, hence, call us a “remittance-sustained nation”.

A World Bank’s report titled “Large Scale Migrants and Remittance in Nepal” estimates that there are 232 million migrant workers in the world with a huge share from Nepal.

After Tajikistan and Kyrgiz Republic, Nepal has the highest ratio of remittance in economy. But we have misjudged it as a splendid accomplishment.

Countries such as Japan, Singapore, Thailand, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam have achieved galloping economic growth of double digits in recent decades. The entire world addresses them as “tiger economy”. Economic development is their first priority.

But in Nepal politics has taken over every other aspect.

Nepal’s unemployment rate hovers around 40 per cent. Though a recent report says Nepal’s employment rate “best” in South Asia, there is employment crisis in Nepal. We have for the past many years failed to create employment opportunities for our youths who after finding no other option at home leave the country in the hope of “improving” their financial conditions.

However, we can hope that this tragic episode will soon come to an end with a stable government in place.

Some may argue in favour of foreign employment, saying the remittance the country has been receiving from the migrant workers is contributing substantially in the country’s economy. But the fact is no country is the world has achieved development and prosperity through remittance. Heavy remittance inflows rather can have serious ramifications.

Intellectually and mentally sound human capitals are disappearing in advanced countries. Physically fit and worthy people are sweating out in Gulf nations. Young and energetic people’s sweat is being used to develop foreign countries. It is certainly good to have these youths at home working in nation building.

The rising migration trend is also having negative social impacts.

Family disintegration and abortions have been rife. A Gidinskrit in his book “Sociology” says foreign employment spoils the family system.

Foreign employment may sustain the economy for a short period of time, but it cannot bring sustainable prosperity.

A strong and self-dependent economy is a must to lay the foundation of success.

When our youths who work in foreign countries return home, they buy the same goods and stuff that they used to buy when they were away. This means we have not given much thought about increasing production or setting up industries. Peoples’ increased purchasing capacity does not matter if we fail to hold the money within the country. Capital flight adds to the problem and spurs dependency.

Foreign employment has many pains over little gains.

On an average, three migrant workers die every day on foreign soil, mainly because of heart failure and work-related accidents. There are many instances in which Nepali migrant workers have been paid less than what was promised at the time of recruitment.

Rich nations have negligible remittance-ratio in their budget.

But we are in a stage where we are forced to worry: What if foreign employment shrinks or stops? Where do we stand then?

The government must act now to retain our youths within the country.

So far, we have been trying to “manage foreign employment”, which means we want to save
the migrating youths from being cheated. But to save the nation, we must be able to create something tangible which can help retain our youths.

Though we are known as an agricultural country, for around 65 per cent of people are directly engaged in the agriculture sector which contributes around 30 per cent to our GDP.

But we are yet to commercialise and modernise agriculture. We have failed to generate youths’ interest in the agriculture sector, for we have failed to make substantial financial returns from this sector.

Apart from that, other viable sectors — for example tourism — must be explored where we can engage our youths.

Development is a gradual process and unless we engage our youths and bring Nepali migrant workers back, prosperity will remain a pipedream.

Dahal is associate professor at Kathmandu School of Law


A version of this article appears in print on April 19, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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