Scrapping of sub-agents from foreign employment leads to drop in fraudulent casesThe Foreign Employment Department has recorded less number of individual cases, but they still continue to operate through indirect channels.
According to the data maintained by the Department of Foreign Employment, the number of cases against individuals involving incidents of fraud has gone down drastically in the first six months of the ongoing fiscal year 2019-20.
In the first six months of this fiscal year, only 246 individual complaints have been lodged at the department, a drop of a little over 44 percent in similar cases compared to the corresponding period of the last fiscal year.
In the first six months of the fiscal year 2018-19, 440 individual complaints related to overseas jobs swindling were registered at the department which has intensified its actions in recent months to curb malpractices.
The Foreign Employment Department attributes the fall in the number of such cases to the last years’ decision of scrapping the provision that allowed recruiting agencies to hire sub-agents.
In March 2019, the government by amending the Foreign Employment Act (2007) had formally removed the provision that allowed recruiting agencies to formally hire sub-agents. The amendment allowed recruiting agencies to establish their branch offices outside Kathmandu Valley.
“The government had to bar the hiring of sub-agents, as they were involved in cheating migrant workers,” said Bhola Nath Guragain, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Employment. “The drop in the number of individual complaints shows that removing the sub-agents working on behalf of recruiting agencies have yielded a positive effect.”
While the complaints of foreign employment fraud have gone down, there has been a whopping 80 percent increase in the number of cases filed against individuals. The department registered 141 cases against individuals, an increase from 78 in the first six months of the last fiscal year.
Sub-agents have been a major actor for Nepal’s labour migration sector, as a majority of outbound migrant workers relies on such-agents while pursuing jobs abroad. These sub-agents, who are often family members, relatives, friends and some acquaintance from the same community, facilitate aspiring workers by connecting them to the recruiting agencies.
While they work as an intermediary between the recruiting agencies and the workers, sub-agents are also involved in swindling these workers by faking remunerations, lying about work conditions, and increasing workers’ investment to obtain a handsome commission for supplying workers to the recruiting agencies.
“We have to acknowledge their role in facilitating poor workers and connecting them with the employer,” said Swarna Kumar Jha, a labour migration researcher. “Scrapping their status legally was indeed a well-intended decision as they are involved in cheating migrant workers.”
This, however, does not mean that cheating of migrant workers has completely stopped. “It’s not that incidents of cheating by sub-agents have completely stopped now. It’s not as rampant as it used to be. Some people are still working as an intermediary between recruiting agencies and workers,” said Guragain.
The department hopes that the operation of a new system that enables aspiring migrant workers to seek and apply for overseas jobs online will reduce their dependency on such individuals working as sub-agents and curb such malpractices.
“The government figure, however, shows a different picture on the ground. Sub-agents are not allowed legally, but they are still operating through indirect and informal channels,” said Jha.
“People might not be filing individual complaints as they know sub-agents do not exist on paper anymore and they might not get compensation. It will take more time to completely eliminate such fraud cases carried out sub-agents.”