Print Edition - 2014-10-31 | Nation
Finding new frontiers
- Overseas Employment
Oct 30, 2014-
Ek Nath Banjara of Panauti, Kavrepalanchok, was overjoyed when he passed the EPS Korean language proficiency test in 2011. He thought he’d stamped his ticket to South Korea when he got enlisted on the employment roster. But unfortunately no Korean employer picked him for a job, even by the end of 2012, when a new batch of students who had passed the test replaced his roster.
Thirty-nine-year-old Banjara has not yet given up on his dream. He again took and passed the Korean language test in 2013 and got himself enlisted on the employment roster. But almost a year on, Banjara still hasn’t been called upon to work in South Korea.
That’s because there are too many others like him who have passed the test but whom the South Korea cannot accommodate. The quota for Nepalis is 5,700 for 2014, for which 8,051 people got through the exam last year. For people like Banjara, who have set their sights on working in the more developed nations, recalibrating their aims and settling for the Gulf and Malaysia just won’t do.
Banjara is now caught in a bind. He wouldn’t mind going to Japan or Israel if South Korea doesn’t want him, but just like with South Korea, for these places too, there are thousand of Nepalis he has to compete with.
And it is because of this problem, of increasing numbers of Nepali youths who would rather go to a developed country than the usual destinations such as Qatar, Malaysia and other Gulf countries, that some labour experts are now of the opinion that Nepal needs to think about a new work frontier: Europe and North America.
“There’s a demand in countries such as Poland, Portugal, Germany, the United States, Canada and other European, North American and even African nations for low-end labourers--farm workers, caregivers, security guards, and Alpine porters,” says Dr Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert.
In recent times, many East Asians like Filipinos, Malaysians and Indonesians and even Sri Lankans have been making into these countries to work low-end jobs after taking special training, say experts. Their governments have signed agreements and held bilateral talks with these countries to help their citizens find work there.
Gurung says that Nepal could even sell its ‘Gurkha’ brand to export security guards or high-altitude porters or even farm-help. And alluding to media reports about Nepali dancers in African countries like Nigeria, Gurung says even dancers could legally go to work in Africa without the fear of facing exploitation if the government were to regulate the labour sector.
European countries have turned into labour destinations for many labour-exporting countries in Asia because of the political developments that took place there over the last decade.
“With the European Union becoming a reality and many of them, like the UK and France, opening their borders and allowing workers from countries like Poland, Hungary and other European nations to ply their trade in their markets, opening the unskilled labour slots in their wake in these countries. That’s where the other nations are focusing on sending their unskilled workers, and we should too,” says Gurung.
Banjara says he would be happy to find work in such countries. He sees no difference between South Korea and Portugal and other such destinations in Europe. But it is beyond his means to get there by himself.
“It’s true that there have been Nepalis who have reached these countries through unofficial channels (by finding their own agents and procuring work permits by themselves). But we can capitalise on this need for Nepalis to get to Europe by actually working with the countries on an official level,” says Buddha Bahadur Khadka, spokesperson for the Labour Ministry.
Ministry officials say an increasing number of workers who had been previously working in European and North American countries have been returning home, demand letters from employers in hand, and then heading back to work there with proper work permits issued by the Nepal government. Official report shows 220 people were issued permits to leave for work in Germany, 158 in the US, 185 in Portugal, 110 in Canada and 105 in Poland in the last two months.
In order to help Nepalis who want to work in these new frontiers, the Labour Ministry recently started the groundwork to explore labour market beyond the Gulf. They have set up a committee which will soon, they say, start visiting the countries in Europe to conduct studies about how the labour network can be set up and how agreements can be drawn up. Nepal has opened up 110 countries as labour market but has neither held bilateral meetings nor signed any agreement with over a hundred of them.
If we have these treaties in place, then people like Banjara, say experts, will not have raised their hopes in vain.
Published: 31-10-2014 09:11