Exodus of Nepal’s youthIronically, people leave Nepal to work in countries that have turned deserts into agricultural lands.
The movement of humans seeking greener pastures is not a new phenomenon. Since time immemorial, people have trudged across mountains and valleys, searching for better opportunities. While many go on to achieve economic success, countless numbers perish too. While migration is usually seen as the movement of unskilled people, it wouldn’t be appropriate to view it solely from a single-sided perspective. Nepal has been suffering exodus on multiple fronts. On the one hand, we have those leaving the country for the Gulf states essentially to fill shortages in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. The other migration is of highly skilled professionals and of those who have often failed to be classed under any category—the students.
The departure of Nepal’s youth boils down to a lack of economic opportunity. The mushrooming number of educational consultancies testify to the fact that billions of dollars are being spent on higher education. In some cases, unscrupulous consultancies have sent gullible students to institutes without any accreditation. While many find skilled jobs and earn valuable experience, Nepal has not been able to reap the dividend that the youths have invested in acquiring knowledge and skill.
Instead, we tend to lose the services of our skilled professionals, primarily doctors and nurses who are homegrown, to the allurement of the developed nations. While it is true that the remittances sent home by those working abroad have helped to uplift families from extreme poverty, we as a nation would benefit significantly from their wealth of knowledge and experience. This begs the question why the reverse trend hasn’t happened despite living in peacetime. What is seen is that the authorities haven’t taken greater initiatives to prioritise sectors that could be of importance in uplifting the country out of economic woes.
The country has suffered immeasurably while the authorities are busy jostling with rivals over internal politics. Wanting to improve people’s lives has become a political slogan. A mere statement during elections has always been confined to lip service. If serious initiatives were taken, we would have been able to keep back the scores of people who had returned during the first wave of the pandemic. But instead, as soon as the restrictions were loosened, people queued up to cross over from various borders. Ironically, people leave Nepal, which has abundant arable land, sometimes to work in countries that have built a flourishing agricultural economy in desert-like conditions.
Instead of signing labour agreements with other countries, the authorities in Nepal should constructively think of how we can provide training to our youths to allow them to make valuable contributions at home—creating a favourable environment free of bureaucratic hurdles. A blanket statement encouraging people to come back and invest will not suffice. Instead, the authorities need to take stock of our skill base abroad and design their policies accordingly. Until that happens, the government could callously rely on the foreign exchange it accumulates from remittances.