Govt Looks for Lucrative Labor Destinations in Europe

  • On January 19, the first batch of Nepali caregivers left Kathmandu for Israel, making it the first instance of Nepalis going to Israel under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement.
  • Nepal and Israel have decided to establish a Joint Working Team to prepare a bilateral agreement for sending Nepali nationals to work in the construction sector in Israel.
  • Nepal and the United Kingdom have agreed to establish labor relations between the two countries to send workers from Nepal and to provide opportunities of employment to Nepali workers by the United Kingdom.

the HRM

These three developments that have taken place in the last two months indicate that the government is now looking for new labor destinations that are safe and lucrative for Nepali workers. Till now, except in South Korea, all major labor destinations where Nepali migrant workers go are not considered attractive and safe when it comes to remuneration and labor safeguard.

With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the foreign employment sector hard whereby thousands of Nepalis migrant workers returned home after losing their jobs, the government is exploring new destinations. This initiation is also being seen as important at a time when remittance inflow in the country has declined noticeably as a result of the global health emergency. The latest data published by the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) showed that the remittance inflow decreased by 6.8 percent to Rs 388.58 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal compared to the same period of the last fiscal year.

According to official statistics, at least 1.5 million migrant workers have returned home from other countries including India in the last two years and among them, nearly half a million people were rescued. And there is no record of migrant workers returning on their own.

According to Labor Minister Krishna Kumar Shrestha, the government is now looking for countries where labor wages are higher. Shrestha said that homework is being carried out to find employment opportunities in the UK, France, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Japan.

The Labor Ministry has said that the government has taken the policy of sending workers for foreign employment only by signing a mandatory labor agreement. According to Labour Minister Shrestha, labor agreements are being prepared with the United Kingdom and some European countries. “We are trying to send workers to those countries where labor wages are higher,” said Shrestha.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment, 5.5 million Nepalis are currently working abroad with more than 75 percent migrant workers concentrated in the Gulf countries.

Although the number of migrant workers going abroad declined, the remittance inflow to Nepal hit a record high in the last fiscal year.
Nepali migrant workers sent home Rs 961.05 billion in the last fiscal year, a record-high money transfer to Nepal since Nepalis started to opt for foreign employment more than two decades ago.

The remittance inflow surged in the last fiscal year despite Nepal’s popular labor destinations Malaysia and Gulf countries being severely hit by the pandemic.
Now the Covid-19 situation has eased, but the remittance inflow is declining. The remittance inflow has been on a decline despite an increase in the number of Nepalis going abroad for job opportunities.

As the inflow of remittance, the major source of foreign currency income continues to decline, the government is looking for new high-end job destinations for Nepalis.

“The government is exploring new labor destinations. If Nepalis go to the high-end job markets, they will earn a good amount of money, and the remittance inflows to Nepal would also increase,” said Danduraj Ghimire, spokesperson at the Labor Ministry.

As the income in the existing labor destinations is limited, the government is preparing to sign labor agreements with the United Kingdom, Jordan, Qatar, Portugal, and a few other countries, said Ghimire.

As per the plan, the government is already preparing to send at least 10,000 nurses to the United Kingdom. The selected nurses for employment in the UK will receive an annual salary of £ 48,000 (£ 4,000 per month) which is equivalent to Rs 7.5 million as per the current exchange rate. The salary is more than 20 times on average what nurses have been earning in Nepal.

“Both the governments–Nepal and the UK–have formed a committee for this purpose. The government of UK has already sent a draft of the memorandum of understanding to Nepal. A Nepali team is currently studying the draft,” informed Ghimire, adding the agreement would be signed within the next few months. According to him, selected Nepali nurses will fly to the UK within the next 10-14 months.

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.

The government has planned to sign an agreement with Turkey and Portugal in the next move. The government, in April 2019, had already exchanged a draft of a memorandum of understanding with Turkey.

“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, Nepalis will not get tricked by agents, and will earn more going to safe places,” said Ghimire, adding that the government is also preparing to sign a new labor deal with Jordan.

The government of Jordan is seeking workers from Nepal for their garment industry. “All the agreements will be in the G2G model.”

As of now, Nepal has signed labor agreements with nine countries—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia and Mauritius.

Likewise, the first batch of 99 Nepali caregivers went to Israel on 19 January to work in geriatric homes. As part of the G2G agreement, more than 1,000 workers. of which 70% are female, will be leaving for Israel in the next months.

According to the government, Nepali caregivers will earn around Rs 150,000 a month. The government is also preparing to sign a labor agreement with Israel to send workers to the construction sector. However, the officials at the Ministry didn’t disclose further details.

Although Nepalis earn good money in high-end labor markets, it comes at a price, experts say.

“Nepali healthcare sector already has limited availability of nurses. Once 10,000 nurses fly to the UK, there will be shortage of nurses in healthcare institutions here. The government must think before making such decisions,” said Kishore Maharjan, chairman of Start Hospital. “In such a condition, sending such a huge number of skilled professionals to the UK would hit the healthcare system. Even during the peaks of every Covid-19 wave, Nepal has faced a shortage of skilled health professionals,” he added.

Srijana Khadka, a final year staff nursing student, is excited by the decision of the UK government to take nurses from Nepal. “If you work in Nepali health institutions, you will not get more than Rs 20,000. The amount nurses get in the UK is more than 20 times. I was already thinking of applying to Australia after my graduation,” she said.

According to the Nepal Nursing Council, 66,000 nurses are registered in Nepal. Of them, 24,000 are overseas for employment and education, while 8,000 nurses serve in various government health institutions. Of the 33,000 nurses available in the market, the number of nurses working in private health institutions is unknown. After 10,000 nurses leave for the UK, Nepal will have only one nurse for every 1,000 people.

“Nepal already has a huge number of unskilled workers in different destinations. When skilled workers go overseas for employment, it is beneficial for both the country and the workers,” said Ghimire. Unemployment has been a major challenge for the government for a long time. As per the latest report, Nepal’s unemployment rate stands at 11.4 percent. The unemployment rate is highest among young people aged 15-24 and 25-34 years, as per the Labor report of the government.

With almost 500,000 people entering the job market every year, Nepal has failed to provide jobs to young people, forcing them to fly abroad for better opportunities.

Apart from Israel, South Korea is another lucrative job market for Nepalis. Currently, Nepalis earn almost Rs 200,000 a month in the South East Asian country. Under the Employment Permit Scheme (EPS), a government-to-government partnership between Nepal and Korea to supply workers, almost 65,000 Nepali workers have already reached South Korea since 2008.

According to Kamal Tamang, acting president at Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), the government has been looking for new job destinations lately. “The decision is good as Nepalis will earn more in new markets. But the government needs to make sure that Nepalis fly to new markets without any hassles and delay,” he said.

“Only the first batch have flown to Israel. Likewise, workers had to wait long to fly to South Korea after the pandemic. The government should make necessary arrangements,” he added.

Talking to the HRM, Tamang further added that the demand for workers from Gulf countries has started to increase in the last few weeks. “The number of workers going abroad will certainly increase in the next few months,” he said.

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