Chandan Kumar Mandal
Nepal is all set to sign a new labour pact with Israel, paving the way for Nepalis to work in the West Asian country.
The Cabinet on Tuesday decided to sign a new agreement with Israel to send Nepalis to work as caregivers. As per the decision made public on Wednesday, the Nepali ambassador in Israel will be authorised to sign the deal with the Israeli government.
According to Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security Rameshwar Ray Yadav, both countries will soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to kick start the process. “Nepali workers will get to work in Israel’s nursing sector,” Yadav told the Post. “Earlier, they used to work as private caregivers. Now they will be allowed to work at the country’s hospitals and other facilities.”
Both countries are expected to sign an agreement to provide work to 500 Nepalis in the first phase. The minister said the first batch of Nepali migrants will leave for Israel in around three months.
The whole process will be implemented by a government-to-government (G2G) mechanism with both sides implementing the agreement without the involvement of any third party or recruiting agencies.
“The MoU will give details about the mechanisms for the selection process and other guidelines,” Minister Yadav said.
The new labour deal with Israel comes as the Nepal government prioritises the inking new labour agreements and revising old ones with various countries. As of now, Nepal has signed labour agreements with nine countries (Qatar, the United Arab of Emirates, Bahrain, Japan, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Malaysia and Mauritius).
Nepalis have been working as caregivers in Israel for a long time. However, the government recognised the country as a labour destination only in 2003. The Nepali community has earned a good reputation among Israelis for their services as caregivers, officials say.
With reports of irregularities in the hiring system and exploitation of migrant workers by recruiting agencies, Israel stopped hiring Nepali caregivers in 2009. Recruitment resumed once again when both countries started the Joint Pilot Programme in 2015.
Under the pilot, Nepali caregivers don’t have to pay more than Rs 65,000 for a job in Israel, which would receive 300 Nepali caregivers. As per the programme, the Jewish state would hire 60 Nepalis every year. But the progress has remained sluggish. In 2017, only 27 landed jobs in Israel. By March 2018, less than 100 Nepalis had made it to Israel under the new system.
In the meantime, Israel had been expressing its interest in hiring more Nepali workers, starting with around 500 caregivers.
“We have managed to secure a safe destination for our migrant workers. Israeli jobs promise better perks and facilities than Gulf countries and are as attractive labour destinations as Japan, South Korea, Mauritius and other new labour destinations in Europe we are looking at,” said Yadav. “A Nepali worker can save around Rs 100,o00 every month.”
The minister said once the first batch leaves for Israel, the government will start negotiations to find work for Nepalis in the country’s agriculture sector as well.
Labour migration experts like Jeevan Baniya also acknowledge that Israel is a safer and more attractive destination for Nepali migrant workers compared to the Gulf countries and Malaysia.
“Israel, as a labour market, is a good option for Nepali migrants. For caregiving services, Nepalis have made a name in many countries, which must have led to their preference for hiring Nepali workers as caregivers,” said Baniya, assistant director at the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, Social Science Baha. “Also, Nepal’s good diplomatic relations with Israel might have worked in favour of Nepali workers. Now, the government should strive to secure more jobs in its agriculture sector and other sectors as well.”
However, Baniya says that hiring a small number will create a tricky situation, which can turn counterproductive for the country in the long run.
According to Baniya, with the announcement of jobs in Israel, many agents will allure youths by promising them jobs and a large number of candidates will start learning Hebrew and other skills, as in the case of South Korea and Japan.
“To fulfil the requirement for such lucrative jobs, Nepali youths start learning language and skills. They also move to Kathmandu and invest a huge amount to meet the requirements, even before a job is guaranteed,” said Baniya. “With such a small job quota, chances are that Nepalis will dole out more money to prepare for the selection process than the amount selected workers will send home as remittance.”
Published on: 25 September 2020 | The Kathmandu Post