KATHMANDU: With advancements in transportation, communication technology, employment, and education worldwide, the global labor and employment market is undergoing a transformation. This shift is not only prompting people to migrate across countries but also presenting increasing challenges. Individuals migrating for labor face numerous issues. Nepalis working abroad are encountering difficulties exacerbated by a lack of immigration policies.
Dr. Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert, said Nepalis in foreign job destinations were facing a plethora of challenges. “Although the number of individuals heading to foreign job destinations is increasing with every passing year, the government has yet to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy. This is becoming a pressing challenge in Nepali society,” he added.
Nepali migrant workers find themselves without the protection of international standards established by organizations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Although many countries are signatories to the United Nations Convention on Migration, Nepali workers struggle to benefit from these standards, facing issues such as limited access to justice, irregular wages, labor and sexual exploitation, unjust dismissal, and domestic violence.
Workers say although the government has raised the issue in different international forums, employer countries often overlook their concerns, foreign employment experts say. Consequently, the challenges for Nepali workers have persisted in labor-receiving countries for decades.
A study conducted by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security reveals that approximately 2,000 Nepali migrant workers prematurely return home due to issues like payment disputes, contract breaches, and exploitation. “The nation is only counting remittance money. It is not studying other problems associated with foreign employment,” Dr Gurung added.
Government officials admit that they are grappling with challenges related to immigration policy, laws of the employer country, skill development, technology, and producing workers in demand by employer countries as the number of youth heading to foreign job destinations rises. “We are dealing with these challenges through Nepali diplomatic missions stationed abroad,” he added.
As the number of migrant workers increases, Nepal is expanding its missions to new locations. It recently decided to open an embassy in Portugal.
More Nepalis seeking refugee status
Approximately 20% of migrant Nepalis are seeking refugee status in developed countries, government data shows. Many Nepalis who are in Japan, Canada, the US, and Europe countries for education and employment are seeking refugee status due to various reasons.
About one million youths leave Nepal for foreign employment annually. Likewise, a study conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) reveals that around 30 million youths from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand head to foreign job destinations each year.
Studies show workers in Middle East countries often face exploitation. Around 300,000 Nepalis leave for Middle East countries for employment every year. Of them, some 10,000 return home after facing various problems. Studies conducted by different organizations show a large number of youths from South Asia face labor exploitation in Middle East countries.
Since 1993, over 7 million Nepali youths have taken labor permits to work abroad. This figure includes 1.4 million women. Approximately 1,200 Nepali youths emigrate for foreign employment every year. A study conducted by the central bank shows that 57% of households in the country have at least one member employed abroad.
As International Migration Day is celebrated on December 18, various programs emphasize the importance of respecting the rights of immigrants. Since the year 2000, Nepal has actively participated in World Migration Day, organizing programs in collaboration with domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations, trade unions, and the private sector. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security leads initiatives under the theme ‘Respecting the Rights of Immigrants’ Contribution,’ recognizing the growing significance of this day in the context of increased movement for foreign employment, education, and diverse professions.
International Migrants Day
International Migrants Day is being celebrated across the world by organizing various programs on Monday. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day on December 4, 2000.
The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Promoting Safe Migration’.