TOPICS : Tackling challenges of foreign employment

In recent years, managing labour force has been the topic of growing importance in Nepal. Ever since the Government of Nepal decided to permit its workers to go abroad for employment, it has helped evolve economic diplomacy, which remains our priority as usual. In a country like ours which is heavily dependent on foreign assistance for economic development, the significance of remittance can hardly be underestimated.

Nepal’s pursuit of foreign employment is influenced by two major factors. One is inflow of capital through remittances which amounts to billions of rupees, annually. The other is the current transitional phase of country’s politics that has badly affected economic growth and employment generation at home. Until we reach a logical conclusion of our peace process, pressures on Nepal to seek foreign employment will continue.

There is no authentic data on Nepali migrant workers owing to various reasons. One of them is lack of awareness on the part of labourers in getting relevant information; the other is the absence of Nepal’s residential diplomatic representation in all the countries open to migrant workers. Another reason is the illegal method labourers adopt to escape government ban on being employed in certain countries. Glaring examples of countries visited by a significant number of Nepali workers restricted for employment are Iraq and Afghanistan.

While there is an urgent need to make foreign employment opportunities available to the Nepali people, workers seldom listen to government advice to avoid security threat in countries banned for employment. Unfortunately, prohibition placed on countries because of security risk has encouraged the middlemen and brokers to capitalise on the situation. The labourers have been duped with the promise of attractive pay cheque to sneak into restricted countries.

Labour problems faced by such illegal workers have got complicated in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan where Nepal does not have residential diplomatic presence. The policy makers on labour migration should undergo soul searching exercise to deal with problem effectively. Nepali migrant workers are facing problems even in countries where the government has given authorisation to work. One of the reliable ways to secure rights and facilities due to our workers is the bilateral labour agreement between Nepal and the country of destination.

It may be hoped that our new ambassador to Malaysia will make strenuous efforts in this direction. Moreover, Nepal should make a survey of labour destinations to find out their requirements in terms of employees’ skills. Once this is done the government should give priority to running vocational training institutions where prospective Nepali workers could be trained accordingly. We should focus on quality of our workers so that they are paid better. With enhanced knowledgeand expertise they will have lesser chances to be stranded when they are in labour-destination countries.