But, the slim chances of getting jobs within the country continued to drive down the productivity of young Nepalis, pushing them to seek overseas labor markets despite such abnormalities.
The departure of more than 1,500 working-age young Nepalis to different overseas job markets every day demonstrates severe scarcity of employment opportunities in the country.
The inflow of remittance has been keeping Nepal’s economy afloat ever since the start of the Maoist-related conflict even though economic activity was slowing then.
But in recent days, Nepal’s foreign employment sector has been marred by different abnormalities threatening its long-term prospects. The problem doesn’t only emanate from foreign employment agents but also from the very government bodies that are supposed to make this sector systematic.
Even the diplomatic image of Nepal has suffered in some major labor importing countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia with Nepali ambassadors deputed there having demonstrated ‘undiplomatic activities’ and forgetting dignity of their post.
In the most recent case of shame for Nepal, the Nepali envoy to Qatar -- Maya Kumari Sharma -- has become so unpopular in the host country that the Qatari ambassador to Nepal had to ask the Nepali government to recall her citing her ‘undiplomatic attitude’ and the seriousness of controversies involving her.
A couple of years back, the government had to recall Hamid Ansari, the then ambassador to Saudi Arabia, one of the four largest recipient countries of Nepali workers, as he was found misappropriating the compensation provided to Nepali victims of abuses there.
A series of deportation of Nepali workers for various cases and involvement of some Nepali embassy staff in manipulating documents and exploiting Nepali workers have also been frequently surfacing.
Recently, it was uncovered that the staff at the Nepali embassy in Malaysia had been fleecing Nepali migrants, making them hand over hefty sums to provide them travel documents.
Nepali workers abroad have also been involved in organizing industrial strikes that challenge the law of land in their respective destination countries.
“It is the failure of the government policy to adopt the control mechanism in foreign employment rather than promoting public private partnership (PPP) in the recruiting process. We can’t single out any one sector for such chaos,” Kumud Khanal, vice president of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), told Republica.
Khanal said the blame game played by the private sector and the government agencies of passing on the responsibility for the anomalies in the foreign employment sector to each other has worsened the situation.
In the past, only the manpower agencies had been found to be highly responsible for a host of problems that emerged in labor migration.
Fake documentation, false promises of jobs and collection of excessive charge from job-seekers are still practiced by recruiting agencies. But in recent days, government agencies supposed to regulate and systematize foreign migration have been found to be more responsible for inviting the worsening situation in this sector.
Some of the Nepali missions abroad were opened entirely to facilitate and help migrants in foreign lands. But, reported involvement of some embassy officials in undiplomatic activities, swindling of workers and rude behavior while providing service to migrants, have tarnished our image in labor receiving countries.
Cases seen in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are sufficient enough to highlight the plight of diplomacy in the key labor market for Nepali youths.
Other cases of irresponsible behavior of Nepali diplomatic staff toward migrants frequently surface with the growing complaints against them.
But the government has done nothing to improve the diplomatic capacity and efficiency of mission staffs so that problems of migrants could be resolved in a diplomatic way and ensure safer migration in coming days.
“But, we can’t expect an instant solution in diplomacy so long as succesive governments pick politically-affiliated people in the labor destinations.
We have to send diplomatically capable staff to create an environment for workers for their better welfare,” Khanal added.
The problems are not cropping up abroad only, the root cause of crisis lies at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) and the immigration office at the Tribhuwan International Airport where illegal activities such as manipulation of documents and kick-backs remain a means of sending workers through unauthorized channels to international market.
“The use of fake documents in collusion with DoFE and immigration staff by unscrupulous manpower agencies to take benefit of loopholes in the existing legal provisions has been plaguing the foreign employment sector and multiplying the problems of migrant laborers. Even workers are not immune to blame. We have seen a host of examples of Nepali workers being involved in illegal activities such as strikes in industrial enterprises, running away from designated employers to join another office lured by better pay or to flee exploitation of former employers.
“They sometimes overlook their rights, duty and responsibility resorting to illegal activities such as strikes to press forward their causes. Such a trend has weakened the bargaining strength of Nepali workers in coming days,” Khanal added.
Though Malaysia has announced it will take in around 200,000 per year, it is cautiously watching the activities of Nepali workers in Malaysia and Qatar has restarted hiring Bangladeshis after a long gap.
“We should not take foreign employment for granted. Negative responses from host countries will harm our foreign employment sector which has been contributing significantly to our state coffers,” Khanal added.
Inflow of remittance has increased at a declining rate. According to Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the central bank, remittance inflow went up to Rs 434.58 billion increasing 20.9 percent during the fiscal year 2012/13, down from 41.8 percent recorded earlier. Data compiled by DoFE shows a number of workers leaving for foreign employment increased to 453,543, an increase by 17.9 percent during the 2012/13 compared to the number earlier.
Out of the total workers leaving for overseas jobs during the review year, Malaysia hosted 34.6 percent, Qatar 20 percent, Saudi Arabia 19 percent and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) received 11.5 percent.
Among the four largest destinations, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia reported rise in arrival of Nepali migrants by 59 percent and 7.2 percent respectively while Qatar and the UAE witnessed a decline by 14 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert, attributed the deepening anomalies in foreign employment to weakness of the government to regulate this crucial sector.
“As the government becomes weaker, the trend of challenging the law increases. This trend is vividly seen in the foreign employment sector where workers, agents and even Nepali mission staff work hand-in-gloveto defy the law,” said Gurung, who is also a former member of the National Planning Commission. The recent arrests of staff at DoFE and TIA immigration by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority on charge of irregularities in the process of sending workers in foreign job markets has highlighted the severity of problems.
Responding to the action on DoFE staffs and immigration staffs, employee unions had taken to the streets demanding their release. “Protection of perpetrator-employees by employee unions is the key promoter of impunity,” said Gurung.