Govt set to revise restrictions on age

  • outbound female domestic help
- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
Govt set to revise restrictions on age

Apr 23, 2015-

The government on Thursday endorsed guidelines on domestic migrant workers as part of its preparations to lift travel ban on Nepali housemaids going to various work destinations in Gulf and Malaysia.

The guidelines is expected to address most of the problems facing the outbound domestic workers both at home and abroad. It will allow Nepali women aged 25 and above to work as housemaid in those destinations through “a few selected” recruiting agencies in Nepal.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment plans to lift the ban in the next few months or even sooner, officials said.

Nepal imposed a ‘temporary ban’ in July on women going to the region for housemaid jobs, citing the need for stronger regulations to protect them from widespread abuse and exploitation there.

Earlier in August 2012, the government had barred women under 30 from taking up domestic jobs in the Gulf and Middle East.

Only those recruiting agencies meeting criteria and assessment test of the government will be eligible to send workers for overseas jobs, the guidelines say. Each recruiting agency in Nepal will have to deposit Rs 2.5 million to acquire accreditation.

The ministry will soon issue a public notice asking the interested agencies to submit applications for the nomination process, ministry spokesman Buddhi Bahadur Khadka said.  

The guidelines, however, have no mention of requirements such as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or agreements with the labour receiving countries before sending workers and have also remained silent on minimum wage of concerned workers.

Every worker shall be entitled to cost-free hiring, proper accommodation, 24-hour health and life insurance, a weekly off and 30-day annual leave and regular contact with their families back home.

It also makes binding for the sponsor or foreign agencies to receive female migrant at the airport on arrival, take her to the Nepali embassy within a week of her arrival and in every four months.

The guidelines require the human resource agencies based in work destinations to obtain accreditation from the Nepali embassies to hire Nepali maids. They will have to deposit $10,000 and contract documents with their Nepali counterparts for accreditation. The embassy will send work contract demands after verification of documents. The sponsor is also required to deposit $1,000.

While the provisions in the guidelines appear promising, many question  government’s intent to send workers without signing a  proper agreement.

But State Minister for Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung has assured that the government would gradually make efforts to have MOU and labour agreement with the destination countries.

“We should not restrain the right to mobility of female migrants for long. We want to start sending them now and gradually sign required agreements,” said Gurung.

Rights groups have long been pushing the government to lift the ban and focus on measures to protect the female migrants.

Bandita Sijapati, an expert on labour migration, welcomed the decision saying that the ban had pushed many desperate women to resort to risky channel to take up jobs in the Gulf and Malaysia.

“They are going there anyway. Allowing them through formal channel would reduce risk and make the government more accountable. The ban has been an excuse for the government to put the blames squarely on the women themselves,” said Sijapati. Female Nepali migrants constitute an estimated 15 percent of the total Nepalis working in the Gulf and Malaysia, most of whom had entered there through informal channels.

However, many rights groups and even some of those in foreign employment business have stood in favour of the ban.  

Aasha Lama, who lobbied for an age restriction for domestic helps in 2012, says that sending women without proper legal and technical framework could be counterproductive for workers. “It’s not right to send them in domestic work without guaranteeing legal protection,” said Lama.

Published: 24-04-2015 10:00

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