Contentious provision of foreign employment law to be amended citing Covid-19 pandemicAfter the amendment is passed, recruiting agencies that had to send a minimum of 100 workers abroad in a year, won’t have to do so.
The government is preparing to amend a provision in the Foreign Employment Act that requires recruiting agencies to send at least 100 workers abroad every year for two consecutive years to have their license renewed.
The contentious provision had become part of the law after Parliament passed the fifth amendment to the Foreign Employment Act (2007) in March last year. Recruiting agencies have long been lobbying against the provision saying it puts undue pressure on them to send workers abroad.
Now as the country reels under the impacts of Covid-19, the government is preparing to repeal the provision—the issue was discussed during the Cabinet meeting last week. An official at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security told the Post that the ministry did not formally come up with the proposal.
“The proposal must have been taken to the Cabinet for approval by officials high up,” said the official, who is not allowed to speak to the media. “The labour ministry did not formally prepare the proposal.”
The Covid-19 outbreak has affected the labour migration sector hard as departure of Nepali migrant workers to labour destinations remains suspended after the government stopped issuing labour permits.
According to Suman Ghimire, spokesperson for the labour ministry, the amendment was being considered in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
“The foreign employment sector is also affected by the global pandemic of Covid-19. The decision has been taken to address their concerns,” said Ghimire. “The amendment is being made considering the special circumstances in the wake of Covid-19. We will consult with stakeholders before amending the provision.”
Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, an organisation of 760 recruiting agencies, has welcomed the government decision.
However, labour migration experts believe that the move will set a bad precedent for the labour governance sector in the long run.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has invited a difficult situation for all sectors. But that doesn’t mean we go on relaxing provisions in the law,” said Swarna Kumar Jha, a labour migration researcher with the National Network for Safe Migration, an umbrella network of various organisations working in the field of labour migration.
“The impacts of Covid-19 will be felt for a few months. The government should have rather relaxed the provision after a few months. Once we remove the provision, it is not going to be easy to get it back up.”
The Gokarna Bista-led the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social security had introduced the provision as part of its efforts to limit the number of recruiting agencies in the country.
The fifth amendment, which had also hiked the guarantee deposits for recruiting agencies, ultimately worked and the number of such agencies came down to 848 from 1,323.
“The move was part of measures to overhaul the labour migration sector of the country and it seemed to be effective in stopping the mushrooming of small agencies,” said Jha.
“If they are to send 100 workers a year, it means they have to process nine a month. If they cannot send even nine, then what is the significance of their existence?”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 886 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.