Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Anomalies prevailed, despite reform moves

------------------------------Foreign Employment Review 2012-------------------

KATHMANDU: Despite some initiatives from the government to regulate overseas labor migration, the foreign employment sector remained in the limelight in 2012 for all the wrong reasons -- rise in incidence of swindling, illegal trafficking of job-seekers with promises of lucrative jobs, mistreatment and exploitation by overseas employers.

One of the oldest manpower agencies was caught red-handed attempting to traffic 200 youths to Canada through the use of fake documents --- an incident which exposed how manpower agencies systematically swindle job seekers.

The biggest disclosure came when the labor minister and senior officials were caught taking bribes. Minister for Labor and Employment Kumar Belbase, who took the bribes to reopen the registration of new manpower agencies, was forced to resign. The government had halted the licensing of new manpower companies since last year, citing rampant anomalies and lack of transparency in granting licenses.
A legal officer at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) was also found taking a bribe. These incidents demonstrate how bribery has flourished within the government bureaucracy and plagued overseas labor migration.

Cases of manpower agencies abandoning job aspirants mid-way in different countries instead of reaching them to the promised destinations rose during the year. In one such case, the government had to rescue 12 Nepalis from Madagascar.
Reports of deaths, industrial accidents leaving workers with permanent disability, torture by employers and different forms of cheating by manpower agents also remained regular occurrences during the year.

To minimize the still rampant anomalies and irregularities in foreign employment, the government formed two powerful committees -- Central Coordination Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, and Special Rapid Action Task Force led by Shankar Koirala, joint secretary at the Home Ministry -- giving them sweeping powers to take immediate action against anyone found guilty of malpractice.

However, the teams failed to perform as per public expectations or bring any significant reform in the sector.

Two separate high-level official teams that visited Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, the largest and second largest destinations respectively for Nepali migrants, had also suggested a raft of measures, including reducing the cost of getting foreign jobs and enhancing the skill levels of Nepali jobs seekers, to systematize foreign employment.

In November, the government completed the process of relisting the names of workers who failed to secure job contracts under South Korea´s Employment Permit System (EPS), at the Human Resource Department (HRD) in South Korea.

In view of the soaring cost of living and inflation, the government increased the minimum wages that employment agencies should secure for Nepalis in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait - hoping the decision would enable workers to send home an additional US$ 430 every year.

As the government tightened the screws on recruiting workers through individual channels, the number of workers leaving for overseas destinations through institutional channels has increased significantly.

“We made a sincere beginning with reforms in foreign employment. Of course, we couldn´t achieved targets as planned for the year,” Purna Chandra Bhattarai, director general of DoFE, told Republica.

Initiatives to provide any kind of service at DoFE within two hours, exchange of foreign employment information with Nepali missions abroad, free legal counseling for female workers victimized in the course of overseas migration, establishing a labor information desk at TIA and a mandatory provision for providing contract documents in Nepali to job seekers are among the positive steps taken in the year under review toward making foreign employment more secure and systematic.

The average daily number of workers leaving for international labor destinations rose to 1,062 in the year 2012/13 from 1,052 recorded the previous year. According to World Bank data on migration and development, Nepal has been ranked 6th in terms of remittance contributing to the economy - 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The number of women going overseas through legal channels has more than doubled over the year, with stricter policy enforcement by the government discouraging employment through individual channels, one of the main reasons behind the many hardships facing Nepali migrants abroad.

In an effort to ensure safe migration, the government initiated the process of retroactively legalizing the stay abroad for those who returned home after working in foreign countries without having taken government permission. Similarly, the government took a landmark decision to bar women below 30 from taking up jobs as housemaids in the Gulf countries, to minimize the risk of physical exploitation.
However, the government´s plan to sign labor pacts with at least two major labor destination countries could not materialized in the review year.

Despite a series of meetings with Israeli embassy officials in an effort to reopen Israel - the favorite destination for Nepali caregivers - no breakthrough was achieved.

Similarly, efforts to reopen Hong Kong, another lucrative destination for Nepali female job seekers, also proved futile.

Published on 2013-01-02 04:21:38

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