Worker crunch looms with new departures

- Roshan Sedhai, Kathmandu
Worker crunch looms with new departures

May 22, 2015-

Nepal’s reconstruction efforts will be hit by human resource crunch if the current rate of out-migration continues.

Over 20,000 Nepali migrant workers have left the country for jobs overseas, including thousands from the districts devastated by the Great Earthquake, in the past 25 days, according to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).

Experts say after a near-halt in the wake of the April 25 quake and major tremors, migrant workers have again started their ‘slow but steady’ return to the usual flight for foreign shores.

The government plans to employ around 100,000 volunteers in rebuilding the quake-affected districts. Officials said it might be difficult to find even half of the required volunteers if outbound-worker flow gets back to pre-quake levels.

According to DoFE officials, an average of 1,200 people have been leaving daily for jobs abroad after the first major jolt. Around 1,500 people used to leave the country before the quake.

The DoFE record shows 19,684 migrant workers took final approvals for various labour destinations in the Gulf and Malaysia from April 25 to May 19. Of them, 18,986 were men and 698 women. The figure only constitutes people going through recruiting agencies, and not those who went through their personal channels.

“There has not been any significant decline in the number of people taking approvals. In fact, there has been an increase day by day since the quake,” said Badri Karki, the DoFE director. The department was deserted in the first few days after the April 25 quake.   

Foreign employment experts say the outbound rate will probably continue to increase in the coming days if the government fails to come up with effective plans and policies to lure the workers into staying in the country. “People are in desperate need of money to recover from this loss and foreign employment is a readily available source of income for them. People cannot wait for the aid from the government as it will take months to reach them due to bureaucratic hurdles,” said Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert.

One way out, say experts, would be for the government to formulate an effective policy to make use of the development budget in creating jobs. They say that many people would choose to work here if the government were to offer attractive schemes.

“This crisis could be viewed as a great opportunity for the government to create jobs related to development activities in the coming years,” said Gurung.

For now, the government has started cross-ministerial discussions to chart out plans to stem the outbound flow. The government is worried that for a nation that was already facing a workforce crunch, the problem could balloon to alarming levels. Most of the industries were making do with Indian and Bangladeshi workers due to a shortage of Nepali workers before the earthquake.

An average of 500,000 Nepalis have left the country each year in the past five years, which is more than the estimated 400,000 people that enter the domestic job market each year.

Many government agencies have asked for immediate suspension of foreign employment for a few months, while the Ministry of Labour and Employment plans to give work permits only if the employers bear all the costs for sending workers abroad, including air tickets.

Exodus of migrant workers

A district-wise breakdown of the DoFE’s data shows that there has been just a slight decrease in the outflow of workers from the worst quake-affected districts. According to the DoFE, since the quake, 275 people have left for overseas jobs from Gorkha, 261 from Sindhupalchok, 303 from Kavrepalanchok, 335 from Dhading and 276 from Kathmandu.

Districts    Number of outbound workers

Gorkha    275

Sindhupalchok    261

Dolakha    179

Kavre    303

Solukhumbu    108

Rasuwa    23

Dhading    335

Kathmandu    276

Bhaktapur    63

Source: Department of Foreign Employment

Published: 23-05-2015 08:59

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