Every year, hundreds of thousands of Nepali youths go abroad in search of employment. While this number is increasing at a staggering rate every year, the paycheck migrant workers receive has remained on the lower side.
The main reason behind this is youths fly abroad for foreign employment sans skills. In a bid to increase the income of Nepali migrant workers, the government is preparing to establish a vocational and training center. The Ministry for Labor, Employment and Social Security is aiming at fulfilling the demand for skilled labor from foreign job markets by establishing the National Vocational and Skill Development Training Center.
According to the ministry officials, the training center will be autonomous in nature. “There is a crisis of skilled workforce in the Nepali job market. Even when there is a lucrative offer from foreign job markets, Nepal doesn’t have skilled manpower to fulfill the demand,” said Ek Narayan Aryal, secretary at the Ministry, adding, “This is one of the key reasons why Nepal is receiving less remittance compared to the number of migrants working abroad.”
The Labor Ministry has already submitted the draft of the operation of the training center to the Ministry of Finance. “Once the Finance Ministry agrees on the proposal, the draft for the operation will be presented at the Council of Ministers,” informed Aryal. Once the proposal is endorsed, the Labor Ministry will initiate the process to establish the autonomous training center. The ministry has planned that the three training centers that are already operational will come under the proposed autonomous center. After the proposal, the Bhaisepati-based Vocational and Training Development Training Center will be upgraded by adding new courses as per the demand of employees in the foreign job markets. Likewise, training centers in Butwal and Itahari will also be brought under the autonomous center. “These training centers don’t have rights to sign contracts with job providers. Likewise, these centers also have limited resources,” said Aryal. “The certificates issued by these centers are also not accepted in our labor destinations.”
Officials say that establishing a skill development training center is on par with international practice as many countries have already established autonomous training centers to send skilled manpower to foreign job markets. The government of India, for instance, has established the India International Skill Centers (IISCs) aiming to bridge the gap that will be created by the global shortage of labor force in the coming years by reaping the demographic dividend of the young Indian workforce. To meet the same objective, the government of India under the Skill India Mission has set up the India International Skill Center (IISC) to provide skill training and certification benchmarked to international standards. Under this, at least 10,373 training centers have been providing training to youth in 36 different categories.
Officials at the Labor Ministry said the focus of the autonomous training center will be the assessment and certification of international standards as per best practices and recognition in different countries. During a recent visit by Labor Minister Krishna Kumar Shrestha, government officials of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also pledged to invest in the autonomous skill development center. According to ministry officials, the two Gulf countries are ready to invest in infrastructure and will provide grants for the proposed organization.
Earlier, when foreign governments wanted to invest in training centers, the Bhaisepati-based center could not accept grants due to policy hurdles. The proposed autonomous training center will have the right to accept such grants from foreign governments.
In Nepal, at least half a million youths enter the job market every year. Of the total number, a huge number travel overseas after failing to get a job in the country. The latest study by the Labor Ministry shows that at least 60 percent of youths in foreign employment are unskilled and are earning a considerably low income. The average paycheck Nepali migrant workers receive in a foreign land is around Rs 30,000.
The data provided by the government show that the unemployment rate in Nepal stands at 11.4 percent. While the employment statistics generally come under scrutiny for being inaccurate, it is believed that the unemployment rate is highest among the people aged 15-34 years.
According to the government, the demand for skilled workers is excessively high but vocational and training centers are not able to produce enough manpower. The training center in Bhaisepati aims to provide skill training to 6,008 youths in 138 categories in the current fiscal year.
At least 300 organizations have received permission from the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) for diploma and pre-diploma programs under different categories. These organizations have the capacity to produce 33,000 skilled manpower every year. Likewise, organizations permitted to provide short-term commercial training can produce 45,000 manpower a year. Similarly, Foreign Employment Board has also permitted 100 training centers to provide skill training to youths.
As per the Foreign Employment Act, one should possess the skills to go to foreign countries for employment opportunities. “But youths are getting training only to complete the formal process to go abroad,” said Aryal.
In its quest to find new labor destinations, the government has signed labor pacts with the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel and Serbia, among a few other countries, to send skilled human resources.
According to the Department of Foreign Employment, 5.5 million Nepalis are currently working abroad with more than 75 percent of migrant workers concentrated in the Gulf region. But the majority of those in Gulf nations and countries like Malaysia are unskilled workers. Economists say that if Nepal succeeds in sending skilled workers to Gulf countries, the inflow of remittance, which has been declining for the last one year, will also see a surge. According to the central bank, inflows of remittance decreased by 1.7 percent to Rs 631.19 billion in the eight months of the current fiscal year.
Labor recruiters also hope that enhancing the skills of migrant workers will have a positive impact on the market demand of the workforce from Nepal. According to Kamal Tamang, First Vice President of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), the demand for skilled workers is excessively high internationally. “The decision to establish an autonomous training center is appreciable as Nepalis will earn more in Gulf countries when they have skills,” he said. Currently, a large number of Nepalis are in Gulf countries for security guard jobs. “This will change when Nepali youths are well trained,” said Tamang. In the budget of the current fiscal year, the government has allocated Rs 4.34 billion for strengthening organizations providing technical, vocational, and skill training to employ 75,000 people, including those from the informal labor sector and returnee migrant workers.
Currently, the government allows Nepalis to work in 110 countries. However, only a small number of workers are in high-end labor markets, including South Korea and Israel.
In search of lucrative jobs, Nepali job-seekers have been illegally entering high-end labor markets, including European countries. If the government finds new destinations and provides skill training, Nepalis will not get tricked by agents and will earn more going to safe places, say Labor Ministry officials.
Recently, the first batch of 99 Nepali caregivers went to Israel to work in geriatric homes. As part of the G2G agreement, more than 1,000 workers. of which 70 percent are female and will be leaving for Israel in the coming months. According to officials, Nepali caregivers will earn around Rs 150,000 a month. “We can’t afford to send our youths abroad just to earn Rs 30,000 a month. When the government invests in skill training, they earn more, and it is a win-win for both government and employees,” said a joint-secretary under the condition of anonymity, slamming the government for allowing youths to go abroad without skills for many years. “The government just wanted remittance from youths. But now when the foreign exchange reserve is declining, it is finding new ways to improve the reserve. Nonetheless, this is a good initiative in these difficult times when the external sector of the economy is under serious pressure. The result would be felt in a few years,” the official said.
In the last two decades, Nepal has become an exporter of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. As the young population is fleeing the country for higher studies and employment and most of them don’t want to return home, Nepal is facing a serious brain drain at present. While the government is opening doors for the skilled workforce to leave the country, members of the Nepali business community, talking to the HRM, expressed their concerns that the problem will only worsen as the government is readying to sign labor agreements with several countries.