Nepal asks Malaysia to apply ‘zero-cost’ migration policyAs per the 2018 pact, Nepali workers are exempt from paying service charges, airfare, visa fee, and medical check-up and security screening costs.
Nepal on Friday requested Malaysia for effective implementation of the “zero-cost” migration policy, which seeks to ensure that workers do not have to pay recruitment fees before, during or after employment.
Labour Minister Dol Prasad Aryal told the Post that he had requested visiting Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for effective implementation of the “zero-cost” migration policy, if it is practical, during a meeting in Kathmandu on Friday.
The Malaysian minister also met with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Friday.
Ismail arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday from Indonesia. He is scheduled to visit Bangladesh on Saturday.
Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar had said that 500,000 foreign workers would be brought into the country in stages under a plan created specifically for critical sectors.
“Nepal has been given top priority in Malaysia’s labour recruitment plan,” said Aryal.
Minister Ismail informed the Nepali side that the Malaysian government had implemented the Foreign Workers Employment Relaxation Plan and the Illegal and Undocumented Foreign Workers Recalibration Plan, according to a press statement issued by Nepal’s Labour Ministry.
The relaxation plan involves five critical sectors or sub-sectors, namely manufacturing, construction, plantation, agriculture and services (restaurants), according to the New Straits Times.
The memorandum of understanding signed between Nepal and Malaysia in 2018 contains a provision that exempts workers from paying recruitment charges as the Malaysian employer is required to bear all the expenses of recruiting workers.
Minister Aryal said they had been studying if the “zero-cost” migration policy was really practical. “It has been envisaged by our law, but we need to review if it is implementable,” said Aryal.
The memorandum of understanding between Nepal and Malaysia was considered to be a milestone in fair recruitment as Nepali workers are exempt from paying all fees, including recruitment service charges, airfare, visa fee, and medical check-up and security screening costs.
But migrant workers and researchers say that is not happening. According to them, recruiters often promise the moon to entice workers to work abroad. They promise big salaries to job seekers and charge large recruitment fees.
And fees are charged not only once at the initial recruitment stage, some demand fees during other stages of migration, they say.
One of the 19 migrant workers who were rescued from Malaysia last month told the Post in a recent interview that he paid Rs300,000 to a recruitment agency to get a job.
Malaysia has been the top labour destination for Nepali workers since 2008 when the government started keeping records of labour migrants.
Nepal halted labour migration to Malaysia for 16 months pending an agreement on recruitment fees and labour market conditions, outlined by a memorandum of understanding between the two governments in October 2018.
Labour migration to the country resumed in September 2019.
The number of Malaysia-bound workers has seen a steep rise since the country resumed taking migrant workers after the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the data of the Department of Foreign Employment, 125,670 new labour permits were issued for Malaysia in the first five months of the current fiscal year, putting the Southeast Asian country at the top of the list of worker destinations for Nepali migrants.
Aryal said they discussed current issues of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia and the renewal of the 2018 memorandum of understanding at the meeting.
“We have urged the Malaysian delegation to ensure a safe working environment for Nepali migrant workers, give them equal treatment as Malaysian citizens, and accord priority to hiring Nepali workers. The Malaysian side was positive to our request,” added Aryal.
Nepal also asked the Malaysian team to fully enrol Nepali migrant workers under its social security scheme.
"An agreement was signed to enrol Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia’s Social Security Organisation around a year ago, but it is yet to be implemented," said Dwarika Upreti, executive director at the Foreign Employment Board.
“The two countries signed an agreement to include Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia’s social security scheme by charging them a certain levy around a year ago, but it has not been implemented,” said Upreti. “A bilateral meeting to finalise the agreement is yet to be held.”
The meeting might be held within a few months, Upreti added.
Prime Minister Dahal received Ismail at his office and discussed matters of mutual concern, including protecting the interests of Nepali migrant workers in Malaysia, the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted.
During the meeting, the Malaysian delegation also asked Nepal if it could send domestic workers.
“We have yet to discuss the proposal,” said Aryal.