Due to the lack of adequate employment opportunities in Nepal, millions of Nepalis are forced to go abroad every year. According to the recent data of the Fiscal Year 2078/79, more than 1,700 people go abroad daily for employment.
Nepali workers can seek job opportunities in 111 countries through recruitment agencies and 178 countries on personal basis. Since FY 2050/51, the government has issued 7.5 million labour permits. Currently, the number of migrant workers in foreign countries stands at 3 million to 3.5 million. However, the national census 2078 B.S. preliminary report recorded 21,69,478 absentee populations in the country.
The nation’s economy has been supported by remittance. The remittance inflow in Fiscal Year 2077/78 stood at Rs. 961 billion. This accounts for about 22.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The remittance inflow in the 11th month of FY 2078/79 remained Rs. 904 billion.
A total of 6, 30,097 labour permits were issued in FY 2078/79, with overwhelming majority of them being issued to males. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1, 66,698 labour permits were issued in the fiscal year 2077/78. Migrant workers obtain labour permits either through the recruitment agencies or individually.
Looking at the data of FY 2078/79, 50 per cent of the total issued labour permits are institutional labour permits which are processed by recruitment agencies. Five per cent foreign job aspirants take a new individual labour permit while 45 per cent take a renewal labour permit processed by themselves. Thus, approved new labour permits are 55 per cent while renewal labour permits are 45 per cent.
In FY 2078/79, the top 10 countries for foreign employment are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Romania, Oman, Japan and Croatia, respectively. Out of the total labour permits, 30 per cent for Saudi Arabia, 29 per cent Qatar, 19 per cent UAE, 6 per cent Malaysia and 6 per cent Kuwait.
About 90 per cent of labour permits have been issued for these five countries alone. Owing to COVID-19, Malaysia has stopped taking workers for the last two years. Now, labour permits have been issued and increasing day by day for Malaysia.
Thus, the number of people going abroad for employment is likely to increase further in the future.
About 8 per cent of the labour permit holders are female. The top 10 countries with the highest number of female workers include the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Cyprus, Malaysia, the Maldives, Croatia, Bahrain, Jordan and Romania, respectively. In terms of districts, the top five origin districts for foreign employment are Dhanusha, Siraha, Mahottari, Jhapa and Morang, respectively. Two-thirds of the migrants who went for foreign employment are unskilled and low-skilled.
The country has started making necessary reforms in the foreign employment sector. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has set up a 24-hour call centre to address the problems. In order to make labour permits faceless, paperless and cashless, the Foreign Employment Office has started to approve all types of labour permit only through online system. The office has started to approve renew labour permits from Magh 2, 2078, institutional labour permits from Baisakh 2, 2079 and new personal labour permits from Jestha 6, 2079 only through the online system.
As a result, the daily crowd of more than 2,000 has been removed. The service became faster, quicker and transparent without complaints. In the past, when the service was provided in the physical presence, various complaints had to be heard and even staffs had to work till night.
Online has also reduced the cost and the service has become faster as the steps of service delivery have been decreased. Now the complaints of the citizens are not heard and even the staff are able to go home on time. Currently, about 2,500 labour permits are approved daily through the online system. If the document of a client's is insufficient, more details are requested to upload by sending a message.
Many domestic women workers in different countries, who could not come to Nepal to meet their families due to fear of losing their jobs, are benefited from the system of granting labour permits to return to the same country.
The labour desk at Tribhuvan International Airport has been removed and the compulsion of workers to enter the airport only through certain gates has ended. Foreign Employment Policy, 2068, Foreign Employment Act, 2064 and other laws are going to revise.
Rapid response team
A rapid response team (RRT) has been formed to control fraud in foreign employment, carry out relief and rescue operation effectively, address complaints immediately and recommend for compensation to the victims. A separate police unit has been established to deal with problems related to foreign employment.
The foreign employment is multidimensional issue. The government alone cannot solve the problems related to it. So, citizens, manpower companies, media and all stakeholders should support the initiative being taken by the government to make foreign employment safer and dignified.
(Aryal is a Joint Secretary at the Foreign Employment Office. firstname.lastname@example.org)