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Migration of Nepalese Youth for Foreign Employment: Problems and Prospects Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Prakash Bhattarai, Nepal May 31, 2006
Human Rights , Migration   Opinions
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A huge number of Nepalese workers go abroad to work in the absence of fruitful local employment opportunities. Migration is nothing new to Nepal, and the total stock of Nepalese nationals working overseas (excluding about one million in India) in different capacities is estimated to be about half a million (ILO-DFID 2002). The history of formal entrance of Nepalese citizens in foreign employment begins in 1814-1815 after the Nepal-British India war. A total of 4,650 Nepalese youngsters were recruited to the British armed forces as a British-Gurkha regiment.

Similarly, the migration of Nepalese people for other employment purposes, such as working in the tea states of Darjeeling and the forest of Assam, began in the second half of the 19th century. Economic migration to the Middle East from South Asia and other parts of the world was spurred-on by the oil boom in the early 1970s. International labour migration, mostly to Gulf States, Malaysia and other South East Asian countries is a new phenomenon of migration in the Nepalese context with about a 30 year long history. Unexpectedly, foreign labour migration has developed in such a way that it has shifted the agricultural based economy towards remittance based economy. According to figures released by the government, there are more than 565,000 documented migrant workers abroad, whereas other estimated figures put the number at more than one million Nepali migrant workers including 100,000 female migrant workers. This figure does not include the population who migrated to India

The reasons behind migration are almost same in Nepal as in other parts of the world. Poverty, limited employment opportunities, deteriorating agricultural productivity, and armed conflict are some of the motives behind international labour migration. There are many villages in Nepal where labour migration has been established as a culture of a community; that is, going abroad for work for awhile and returning with some money and the experience of living in a different geographical location. The influence of friends, relatives and well-wishers have also played a prominent role in the promotion of international labour migration.

Ongoing armed conflict in the country has displaced people from their usual place of residence and the alternative means of employment for displaced youth has been established as foreign employment. The conflict has also limited development activities throughout the country and expansion of industries has ceased. This situation has created more difficulty in securing employment within the national borders and the final step of many people is to go abroad for employment. Though concrete research has yet to be conducted, the young people from conflict prone areas are compelled to leave for foreign employment to save their lives.

So far in the Nepalese context, foreign labour occupation has developed as an emerging business. But the business has not remained a dignified profession at all. The reports about irregularities in foreign labour migration and problems faced by potential labour migrants before and after their departure for foreign employment are not properly addressed at the policy level. A migrant worker has to face numerous problems while he/she makes the decision to migrate for foreign employment. Most of the migrant workers are taking a blind decision to migrate for work without any consideration of actual income that he/she will receive in the country of destination. Similarly, he/she has to face the problem of finding sufficient money to go abroad and the only way to get money is through a loan with a high interest rate. The government, except some cases, does not offer special provisions to subsidize loan interest rates.

Information is lacking in each and every step for potential labour migrants. Most of them are not aware of where they are going, what work they have to do, the actual cost they need to spend to go for work and other social and cultural information about the country of destination. As a result, there are numerous real stories of the suffering of Nepalese migrant workers abroad.

Most of the migrant workers abroad are working in vulnerable situations without any effective legal protection by the Nepalese government or the receiving countries’ government. Workplace exploitation by foreign companies is well known but the Nepalese government has not adopted any specific labour diplomacy policies, except in some cases. While workers are not allowed to work in each and every country around the world, there are several serious cases about the pathetic situation of Nepalese migrants working in unauthorized countries without any legal or social protection by the host countries. The massacre of 12 Nepalese workers by an extremist group in Iraq on August 2004 can be taken as a good example of that. There are many other cases where illegal Nepalese workers are kept in prison for a long time on both fake and genuine charges. Nevertheless, the Nepalese government has not adopted proper political diplomacy to rescue them and assure their safe return to the homeland.

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Migration of Nepalese Youth for Foreign Employment: Problems and Prospects
Sudip Aryal | Aug 6th, 2006
A very seriuos issue of Nepal.

abhinav bhattarai | Apr 18th, 2007
a very grave issue that needs instant recognization from the govt level(if there is one!)I don't think the migration can stop any time soon...for umpteen reasons but neverthe less,effective measures have to be taken if we are to safeguard the intrest of neplese migrants.

A New Window
Samyuktha P.C. | Jun 5th, 2010
Your article opened me out into the lives of Nepalis, I live far off in Tamil Nadu: South India. Similarities, windows to a new world - draws me to your article. I run an online collective called Chai Kadai (literally translated as 'tea shop': a place for conversations around India). We are launching our first monthly online magazine called Cutting Chai. The first issue discusses about youth cultures around the world, the importance of youth in a society, etc. Having read this article, I would love to have you write about the Nepali youth population, its culture, and issues. Your piece would be a gem in our collection. This magazine will travel the world, reach many important artists, experts, professionals, activists personally. I am waiting to hear from you. To read more about us go to http://tigurl.org/b2xkur Regards, Samyuktha PC Editor & Creator - Chai Kadai chaikadai@gmail.com

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