The job issueWith the Gulf crisis showing no sign of resolution, the number of aspiring Nepali migrants seeking a permit to work in Qatar has plummeted sharply.
With the Gulf crisis showing no sign of resolution, the number of aspiring Nepali migrants seeking a permit to work in Qatar has plummeted sharply. An official at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) estimated a decline of nearly 25 percent since the diplomatic row began in the region early last month. Earlier, around 700 to 800 people applied daily for a permit to work in the tiny but gas-rich Gulf nation.
The crisis started after a number of countries led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 and imposed a land, sea and air blockade. One of their main accusations against Qatar is that it supports terror groups, including those backed by Iran—Saudi Arabia’s major regional rival. They have made a number of demands from Qatar as a condition for restoring ties. Qatar has called the accusations baseless and the demands unacceptable.
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, there were concerns that Nepalis in Qatar might have to be evacuated, and questions about whether Nepal had the ability to mount a rescue mission. Such concerns are no longer pressing, as there are no immediate threats. What is of greater concern now is the work prospects in the Gulf for aspiring Nepali migrant workers.
The sluggish pace of industrialisation in Nepal has made jobs in the country scarce and foreign employment attractive for a huge number of our youths. Although they can apply for work permits in nearly 170 countries, some like Malaysia and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that includes countries affected by the ongoing row are the most popular labour destinations for Nepalis.
According to the “Labour Migration for Employment: A Status Report for Nepal” released by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Malaysia and the GCC countries host 85 percent of all the Nepali migrant workers. The report says that since 2008-09, a total of 2,723,587 work permits have been issued, 33.3 percent of which were for Malaysia, followed by Qatar (19 percent), Saudi Arabia (18.9 percent), United Arab Emirates (9.8 percent), Kuwait (2.5 percent) and Bahrain (0.9 percent), among others. Currently, there are over 400,000 Nepalis in Qatar; the number of Nepalis working in the Gulf region totals more than a million.
In the short term, few alternatives will be as attractive to our youths as foreign employment. As such, Nepali embassies in the Gulf should closely follow ongoing developments and actively pursue business diplomacy. However, Nepal’s medium to long term focus should be on industrialisation so as to be less dependent on remittances, which currently account for a whopping third of our economy.