Even Amidst Pandemic, Nepali Migrants Continue to Seek Jobs Abroad

Chandan Kumar Mandal

Nepali migrant workers continue to seek jobs abroad even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, government data shows.

Lack of employment opportunities at home and ineffective government reintegration programmes have pushed even those who returned to Nepal due to the pandemic to go back, experts say.

“Lack of jobs at home is forcing workers to choose the path of migration once again,” said Swarna Kumar Jha, a labour migration expert. “When they lost their jobs due to the pandemic and returned home, they had hoped to get work under the government’s reintegration programmes,” he added. “But when they arrived, they didn’t know what to do.”

With the resumption of foreign employment, hundreds of Nepali migrant workers can be seen queuing up outside government offices to apply for permits to go abroad for work.

During the month of Ashoj, the third month of the fiscal year alone, a total of 8,097 labour permits have been issued from the Foreign Employment Office, Tahachal, Kathmandu and other Labour Offices in the provinces.

Between September 17 and October 16, as many as 7,676 men and 421 women have received permits to work abroad, according to the government figures.

“Those with valid visa and labour contracts are leaving the country once again after seeking labour permits. The number of migrants, who were on their annual leave, is higher among those going abroad for jobs this time,” Matrika Sapkota, a section officer at the Tahachal office, told the Post.

“Nepali migrant workers have been receiving labour permits to go abroad even during this pandemic times. It has not stopped,” he said. “But the numbers are not as high as during the pre-Covid times.”

According to Sapkota, around 1,400-1,500 labour permits were issued every day before the pandemic. Last year, a total of 18,771 Nepali workers had applied for labour permits in the month of Ashoj. The number has now slumped to around 300 every day.

Of 5,422 workers were issued labour approvals from Tahachal Office in Kathmandu last month, 4,505 received labour permits under the re-entry category followed by 516 under the new entrant category and 401 under legalisation. The re-entry category is for labourers who want to return to work after taking a break from work.

Labour migration had come to a halt when the government had stopped issuing labour permits. Even then, we were regularly receiving calls when services would resume. Since labour permits resumed, aspiring migrant workers have been seeking labour permits.

That the labour destination countries are opening up has also encouraged migrants to leave the country, said Jha, also a coordinator at the National Network for Safe Migration, a grouping of organisations working to promote safer migration and rights of migrant workers. “While they were met with hopeless conditions back home, destination countries were gradually opening up, and this provided a ray of hope for them.”

Jha believes that sooner or later most migrants who returned home due to the pandemic will go abroad for work again. “Except for those who have some income back home, most of those who returned will slowly migrate once again. They will migrate seeking jobs.”

Nepal’s labour migration faced a complete shutdown after the government stopped issuing labour permits in mid-March in the view of rising Covid-19 cases in Nepal’s major labour destination countries. The government recently decided to resume labour migration partially after a hiatus of five months.

“When work resumed after the lockdown, there was a huge number of people visiting us seeking labour permits. The number has slowed down again due to the festive season,” said Sapkota. The Tahachal office’s regular services were affected lately after five of its workers tested positive to Covid-19.

“They are migrating again as countries have started opening up and there are regular flights. The number might go up after the festive season is over,” said Sapkota.

Month                       Total labour permits

July 2 - July 15                    2,494

July 16 - August 16             3,152

August 17 - September 16      1,525

September 17-October 16      8,097

Published on: 20 October 2020 | The Kathmandu Post


Back to list