The government’s plan of finding employment for 500,000 seems far-fetchedAlthough the government’s employment programmes seem promising, implementation will be challenging
The government has recently come up with an ambitious plan to create 500,000 jobs in the next fiscal year. This follows, and is now tied to, another programme called the Prime Minister Employment Programme that was launched on February 13 this year, aiming to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment in a year to those between the ages of 18 and 59 that are unemployed and seeking work. The two interconnected programmes are commendable—if implemented well. However, short of that, the programmes may turn out to be costly failures: populist agendas with no backbone and no discernible outcome.
Nepal is a poor country, with 21.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line. While the Nepal Labour Force Survey 2018-19 estimated the total unemployment rate to be 11.4 percent, it is estimated that the youth unemployment rate is higher, at around 35.8 percent. More than 4.3 million Nepalis have migrated abroad for work. In this light, the government’s focus on reducing unemployment and providing jobs is admirable. The PM Employment programme aims to collect information on the unemployed through the newly set-up Employment Service Centres, which have been created in all 753 local units of the country. The centres are supposed to have information, through an online database, on locally available jobs, and can match registered job seekers to suitable employment. The government has pledged to provide enrolled citizens with guaranteed sustenance equal to half of the agreed upon wage for 100 days, should it fail to provide employment.
The government has already hit snags in implementing this programme. The Employment Service Centres had failed to find enough coordinators to lead them on time, which has meant that active promotion—and thereby enrollment—has been unequal across local units. The programme’s enrollment deadline has already been extended by a month, to May 14. The government had allocated Rs3.1 billion towards this programme in the budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. Given that the scheme started late this year, the government had hoped that they could find employment for 100,000 people by the end of this fiscal year. However, because the programme was initiated late, authorities say that most who have applied this year will not receive employment. Neither will they receive the guaranteed sustenance, according to Prakash Dahal, head of the programme.
If the government fails to honour the terms of employment, or sustenance, to even 100,000 in almost five months, it is unlikely that it can provide jobs for 500,000 next fiscal year. The government also cannot use this as an opportunity to selectively distribute employment or sustenance to party cadres and supporters. Moreover, most jobs available seem to be in the construction sector. The addition of further jobs in the next fiscal year, or the years to come, seems to be heavily reliant on large projects—like those pledged in the Investment Summit 2019—coming to fruition to provide employment opportunities. This is something that we know, from past experience, is not a guarantee.