Workers await Nepal-Qatar pact for safe, lucrative jobs

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Prakash Chandra Timilsena, Kathmandu

Aug 18, 2018-

Each time an airplane passes over the house he spends his day working in, Binay Uraau is reminded of his long-held dream: securing a job and flying to Qatar.

Uraau, 40, who has been working as a mason building a house in Koteshwor, feels a plum job in Doha would lessen the financial burden that is there on his family of five.

But that’s not the only reason he wants to board a plane for Doha soon.

A new measure proposed by Nepal’s Ministry of Labour earlier this year is pushing for an agreement with Qatar that would benefit Nepali migrant workers. If implemented, the pact would eliminate the exorbitant fees workers have to pay to recruiting agents to clinch jobs in Qatar for visa, medical tests, and other bureaucratic paperwork. Nepal currently has a bilateral labour agreement with Qatar, signed in 2005.

Uraau left his home in Siraha district in southeastern Nepal 10 years ago for better prospects in Kathmandu. Although his finances have improved through menial labour work—he makes about Rs20,000 a month—at construction sites across the city, he says the income is barely enough to make a living.

“I have to pay a hefty sum to educate my two daughters and son,” Uraau told the Post. “My elder brother has been working in Qatar for the last 13 years and my younger brother joined him a few years ago. Now, I think it’s time I find a job there, too.”

Unlike Uraau, 35-year-old Ganesh Dhakal, from Chitwan, has worked for two years as a chef for a Turkish restaurant in Doha, before returning to Nepal. Now he wants to go back again.

“If I get the opportunity, I would certainly return to Qatar because it welcomes foreign workers and is a good place to work and live,” said Dhakal, who currently works as a chef making Nepali and Indian cuisine at a restaurant in Jhamsikhel.

Many young Nepalis like Uraau and Dhakal dream of finding employment abroad, particularly in the Gulf countries and Malaysia, the most popular destinations for Nepali workers. Currently, around 400,000 Nepalis work in Qatar.

But not everyone shares this dream of leaving their homes to find a job in foreign lands. Many educated young Nepalis are wary of the political crisis in the Gulf. Last year, a group of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, clamped an economic blockade on Qatar that continues to be in force. Some Nepalis have tried to dismiss the vulnerabilities the region’s politics bring to employment in the tiny Gulf kingdom, arguing that Qatar’s new labour laws are migrant-worker friendly.

On December 13, 2016, Qatar abolished the regressive Kafala system (which favoured the employer’s rights more than the worker’s) when its Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs implemented Law No 21 in 2015.

Qatar’s new labour law fuels dreams of thousands of young Nepali men and women. And the Nepali government has been working on signing G2G (Government-to-Government) agreements with several countries, including Qatar.

In a parliamentary meeting earlier this week, Labour Minister Gokarna Bista said all these changes would help Nepali migrant workers secure good job opportunities in Qatar without having to pay any fees. However, Nepali officials said they have no idea when the said pact would be signed and implemented.

The new modality of hiring workers is expected to give respite to the thousands of Nepalis aspiring to work in the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup host nation. But concerns about the safety of workers remain, as Qatar continues to be one of the deadliest countries for Nepali migrant workers. According to the Foreign Employment Promotion Board, at least 1,326 Nepali workers have died in Qatar in the last nine years.

“Our governments are discussing the proposal on how Nepalis could reach Qatar without any hassle,” Bista said. “We are making sure that our workers remain safe while taking up jobs overseas.”

Published: 18-08-2018 07:22

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