No country for youngPromises of employment alone will not suffice to keep Nepalis from leaving
Take the scuffle at the Chyasal football ground between the police and those waiting to submit applications to appear for the Korean Language Test on Wednesday as an example. A few young men fainted due to exhaustion while others stood barefoot in the mud for hours after losing their shoes and slippers in the scrum. Many applicants had lined up since Tuesday night while others from outside the Valley joined the queue as soon as they got off their buses.
By the end of the day, the Korean Employment Permit System (EPS) had collected 19,000 applications from seven centres all over the country—4,189 from Chyasal in Lalitpur alone. As the deadline for submitting the applications is until Saturday, submissions are expected to cross 50,000. The South Korean Human Resource Department, responsible for the selection, however, has allocated 5,700 jobs for Nepalis this year. The craze to leave for South Korea is understandable. Selected candidates have to spend around Rs 100,000 and the money—four times the salary of a Section Officer with the Government of Nepal—can be recovered in a month.
Fifty-seven percent of the Nepali population is between the ages of 15-59. And according to the 2008 National Labour Force Survey, 46 percent of total youths between the ages 20-24 and 40 percent between the ages 24-29 are ‘underutilised’, ie, they are either unemployed, work less hours than they would like to, make insufficient money or have a skills mismatch. So the incident in Chyasal, more than anything else, is indicative of the desperation of Nepali youths for decent jobs and income.
Approximately 450,000 young people enter the job market each year, only to find that it can only absorb a fraction of that labour force. Migrating for work or taking up whatever comes along, regardless of personal interests, skills, education and pay scale, seem to be the only options available. This situation will persist as long as the government sticks to patronising the youths as the future of tomorrow while dodging the issue at hand: job creation. The government makes promises. Last year, it announced that 50,000 jobs would be created in small and big industries. But such stand-alone plans that do not link investment in education and skills development to employment miss the point. Unless this happens, the mass migration of young people will continue and thousands lining up to leave the country will keep making the front pages.