In light of policy gapLack of opportunities at home means the trend of mass departures will likely continue.
Growing economic uncertainty, decreasing employment prospects, rising inflation and a desperate need to provide for their families is pushing people in Nepal to seek employment opportunities abroad. Migrant departures that had stood still at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic are now back up and raring to touch pre-pandemic levels. More than 1,700 people exit the country daily, just like in old times. Despite losing countless youths to the lure of foreign employment, the authorities have lost little sleep trying to make sense of the ramifications such mass departures may entail.
The pandemic’s unprecedented impact in 2020 left once thriving economies worldwide in a state of bewilderment. With their growth prospects in turmoil, the migrant population, for lack of any viable means of sustenance, were left with no choice but to return to their home countries if they could before their work contracts expired. And despite the migrants' eagerness, the government, rather than facilitating their return, suspended flights to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, which complicated matters further for them. The acts of the authorities in treating the migrants, who have single-handedly helped reduce poverty levels, have so far been abysmal.
Approximately 500,000 youths in Nepal enter the labour market annually, and around 400,000 apply for foreign employment. It is this lack of policy formulation and implementation at the highest level to attract a skilled Nepali workforce or invest in programmes to train the ever-growing youth population that is leading to the exodus; and it is unlikely, given the current circumstances, that we will see a reversal in these numbers any time soon. By giving priority to improving the depleted foreign exchange reserves, the authorities seem to have lost sight of the broader socio-economic implication of a policy gap in this sector.
The crux of the problem lies in continued political instability. After years of political ruckus, the 2017 elections paved the way for a stable political environment—a government with a clear mandate. But the vested interest of important political actors scuppered any little expectation the people had from their elected representatives. Bogged down in continuous political infighting, the politicians rarely set aside time to comprehend the needs and concerns of the populace they intend to represent. Even the programmes unveiled, which seem rather uncustomary, have so far failed to be implemented.
There is no other choice currently for Nepal’s burgeoning youth to find means of sustaining themselves and their families other than seeking economic opportunities abroad. With the government’s role as mere manpower agents more interested in measuring the myopic financial benefits of sending the country's youths overseas than developing opportunities for them at home, the trend of mass departures will likely continue for the foreseeable future.