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Posted On: 11 January 2015 08:05 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:14 pm

Nepali workers burdened with heavy recruitment expenses

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Some 3mn Nepalis, about 10% of the total population of the the land- locked nation that lies in the lap of the serene Himalayas, work in foreign countries, most of them as unskilled and semi-skilled labourers. Qatar is home to about 400,000 of them and theyare widely used to realise Doha's ambitious development projects. After Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a section of the foreign media had published a series of reports about the abuse of foreign workers in the Arabian Gulf country, with a particular emphasis on the the Nepalis as the biggest victims.
Gulf Times in its role as a catalyst for all round development in Qatar has sent journalists to learn the ground realities in four countries-- India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – which send the largest numbers of workers to Qatar. We have published three reports on our findings in India during the last two weeks. As part of our efforts to understand what bearing the situation in the sourcing countries has on the overall situation of expatriate workers in Qatar, we will be publishing a series of reports comprising our findings in the remaining three countries, beginning with Nepal today.
Among the GCC countries, Qatar accounts for the largest number of Nepali labourers, estimated to be more than 400,000. The total population of Nepal is around 30 mn.
Qatar is the second most preferred destination for Nepali workers, Malaysia being their first choice, recruitment agents in Kathmandu told Gulf Times. The country supplies manpower to about 108 countries. Work-related international migration is widespread across Nepal's five regions and three ecological belts, covering almost half of the households in the country.
Remittance by migrant workers is the backbone of the predominantly agrarian Nepali economy. While agriculture still is a major contributor to the national coffers , foreign remittance, which is around 25% of the total GDP , is the second highest factor. It is estimated that non-resident Nepali workers send home around NR 400 bn annually.
According to sources in the recruitment fraternity, almost half of the Nepali households have at least one person working abroad or a returnee. More than 95% of the migrant workers are males aged 20-44, highlighting the fact that more than a quarter of the total adult male population works abroad, causing a lot of social and cultural ramifications in the conservative Hindu majority country.
There are around 760 registered recruitment agencies in Nepal. Almost all of them receive a good number of candidates seeking employment opportunities abroad on a daily basis. Huge crowds, thronging the offices of the recruitment agencies, is a regular sight in Kathmandu, the capital ,which is the only place in the country where manpower recruitment takes place.
Job aspirants from interior villages and towns reach the capital and wait for weeks or months to complete the paperwork and other formalities. Authorised recruitment companies have a proper system and well-arranged offices in the city. They follow directives of the government and work under its control. There are also illegal recruiters who work through middlemen and recruit people giving them false hopes.
One of the illegal recruitment channels operates through India. Nepal has a 710-km long open border with India and citizens of both countries do not need any document to travel to and fro which makes border crossings easy.
Illegal recruiters lure Nepalese workers to India and promise them to send them abroad on higher salaries. This, in turn, leads to human trafficking and other immoral practices.
A middleman working in New Delhi told this Correspondent that he could arrange an Indian passport and other documents for a Nepali who will be able to get higher pay and perks, if he is carrying an Indian passport.
He explained: “ For a Nepali who wants an Indian passport, we arrange for documents that show his domicile at a place in India bordering Nepal. This will legitimise the worker as an Indian and the same person is sent abroad as an Indian.” If the person is caught during the process, the middlemen vanish from the scene and by this time, the job aspirant might have become poorer by a significant amount of money.
President of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies ( NAFEA), Bal Bahadur Thamang told Gulf Times that a large number of Nepalese workers are going to Malaysia, Qatar and other GCC countries, though some issues like delayed payment of wages and difficult working conditions are reported by some of the workers from these countries.
He noted: “We know some of the people may have to face problems in the destination countries. We inform the candidates about potential issues the workers might face but still we find a large number of people queuing up in front of our offices everyday.” He added that customs and living standards make the people go abroad hoping that a foreign job would enhance their social image as well as boost their economic prospects.
Thamang said that there was huge exploitation of the workers at different points in the process of the recruitment. He explained: “There are illegal recruitment agents who thrive in different areas of Nepal. Potential migrant workers go through 3-4 middlemen, before they reach an approved agent and by this time, the workers might have already spent around $500 to $700. The reason is that the workers are living in interior villages and the middlemen bring them to Kathmandu and charge them for anything and everything.”
He continued: “If a person wants to work abroad, he approaches the agent in his village who in turn charges a fee and takes him to the local town. Here, another person takes charge of the process and again the poor chap has to pay an equal amount of money. He then takes him to another middleman in Kathmandu and again money changes hands before the candidate reaches the approved agent.
“Recruitment agencies are allowed to collect a maximum of $700, including ticket and service charges for Qatar. The workers also have to pay for their passports and medical fitness test, making the total recruitment charges around $ 1000. But add the money paid to the middlemen and it makes a huge amount for the workers,” he pointed out.
The NAFEA president said that in Nepal, workers can earn a daily wages of around 350 rupees but they are not ready to work in their home country due to the social status issue. Moreover the jobs are not regular in Nepal. According to him large scale migration has created many social problems. Most of the males go abroad leaving the women alone at home. This leads to many social and cultural issues. About 7% of the families are affected due to illegal relationships and divorces.”
He cited good education for children and better living conditions for the families as the good outcomes of migration. “ Migration is helping to reduce population as families are staying separately. Children are getting good education. The standard of living has been going up as people have a higher purchasing capacity.”
He also cited many drawbacks of the situation. “People are moving to cities, leaving behind their villages and as a result agriculture suffers. Nepal used to be an exporter of rice but now we are importing the staple from India. Another problem is that the remittances from abroad are not used productively. It is used mainly for buying clothes, other consumables and for building new houses,” he added.