Print Edition - 2014-09-02  |  Development

Doing it right

  • Government should provide job-specific training to workers and take responsibility of their security
- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Doing it right

Sep 1, 2014-

Bishnu Rai, a mother of two, left for Malaysia to work for Sony CD Company recently. As per the standard recruitment practice, Rai was supposed to take training for the proposed job and orientation about the labour destination and the nature of her work. But she neither took the training nor the pre-departure orientation.

The concerned recruiting agency and the government body did not even bother to find whether she was fit for the job before issuing her the labour permit. Rai was fortunate that her job-which was to pack the manufactured CDs-did not demand specific set of skills. Not all 1,750 migrant leaving the country everyday are lucky as Rai.

In lack of information and skills about the prospective jobs, thousands of Nepali migrant workers land up in trouble in their labour destinations every month. The oversight of government in ensuring work-specific training and orientation is primary cause of the problems that migrants face. Only about two percent of those who go abroad for work are skilled manpower, 23 percent are semi-skilled, and 75 percent are unskilled.

“The problem with our workers is they do not receive job-oriented skills. It’s very necessary even for the unskilled workers to get job-oriented training,” says Rishi Raj Adhikari, Nepal’s former ambassador to Malaysia. He adds that workers with skills are better treated and more likely to get promotion and other facilities.     

Internal study carried out by the Nepali missions in various labour destination shows that workers without skills and information are more prone to abuse and exploitation at the hands of their employers than their skilled counterparts.

Despite its increasing reliance on migrants, the government has done little to promote their skills and ability.  There has been hardly any differences in the government’s approach at regulating the foreign employment industry now than it was two decade ago, when just a few thousand people used to leave the country on an annual basis.

The Foreign Employment Promotion Board has announced to provide training to female migrants, but only few hundreds women in handful of pilot districts have benefited.

The industry with an annual turnout of over USD 1 billion faces a wide range of problems inside home and in labour destinations. The existing laws and regulation has largely failed to combat fraud that overruns the industry.

Government bodies blame weak laws and acute scarcity of resources as major hindrance in regulating the recruiting agencies, recruiting agents, orientating centres and health institutions. The Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) which oversees some 3 million migrant workers have only 200 staffers, while the embassies in five labour destinations have only 30 staffers.

Granted that the government do not have capacity to launch a large-scale reforms, experts say its focus should be on addressing small but immediate concerns raised by the migrants. There is an urgent need to adjust the exorbitant recruitment cost, ensure minimum wage scale, and protect and promote the workers rights both at home and abroad.    

Other areas that demand immediate government attention include providing job specific orientating to workers, managing soft loan to workers, signing labour agreement with labour destinations, and launching grassroots level awareness campaign against fraudsters to protect workers from dishonest agent and human traffickers.

There is no proper mechanism to rescue, evacuate and provide legal remedy to workers. Nepal has not even signed labour agreements with a majority of the country’s leading labour destinations. There is an immediate need to form a high level mechanism to rescue, evacuate and repatriate needy workers from the labour destinations.

 Nearly 95 percent of the migrant labourers go to the Gulf and Malaysia despite safety and security concerns due to government’s failure to search labour destinations with better rights and welfare for migrants.

Adhikari says that the government should shift its attention to the countries where there is higher demand of skilled workforce and has better facilities to offer the workers.

“It’s a pity that even our skilled workforce are compelled to pick up unskilled job. Nepal should start diplomatic effort to send its workers to country like Singapore where thousands of Malaysian workers go to work,” says Adhikari.

Government officials admit that there are problems, but also insist that there has been a massive reform in the foreign employment sector in the last few years.

“The overseas employment sector has swelled in the last few years while plans and policies remain same. We plan to amend the laws and formulate new places and polices to promote and protect the rights of the workers, while giving special focus to combat the anomalies,” says Buddhi Bahadur Khadka, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Employment. According to him, most of the problems will be addressed after the Foreign Employment Act-- which is currently in the process of amendment--comes into effect.

Published: 02-09-2014 09:19

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