At least 500,000 migrant workers want to return home at the earliest, says reportNepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies says 10-30 percent of jobs held by Nepalis in Malaysia and the Gulf is gone.
As the country's labour migration sector grapples with its biggest crisis ever, nearly 500,000 t0 600,000 Nepali migrant workers are likely to return home in the near future, a report shows.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has taken away Nepali migrant workers’ jobs in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia—Nepal’s top labour destination countries—making them live penniless and forcing them to wait for the government to take them home.
“Nearly 20 to 25 percent of the estimated 3 million Nepali workers abroad are likely to return home,” said Sujit Kumar Shreshta, general secretary of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA), a grouping of agencies outsourcing workers abroad that commissioned the report.
He said there are two reasons why such a large number of workers are likely to return home. First, “about 60 percent of Nepali workers who migrated two years ago are likely to return because their work tenure is over.” Second, “a large number of workers will return after losing their jobs to the pandemic.
According to the report prepared with inputs from agencies and employers in labour destination countries, the number of Nepali migrant workers losing their jobs and returning home also seems large because of the demography of the migrants and trends in the country’s labour migration sector.
“Around 33.5 Nepali migrants are unskilled and work as physical labourers,” said Shrestha. “Now as construction work is completely halted, they have lost their jobs,” he said. “Nepali migrants also return after completing their first tenure in two years and with experience gained from the first trip they migrate again, hoping to earn more.”
Also, before the lockdown, while numerous Nepali workers left the country every day, many were also returning home. With the lockdown, they also haven’t been able to return, and this adds to the number of people who want to return home at the earliest, said Shrestha.
As per the report, 30 percent jobs held by Nepali workers in the United Arab of Emirates and Malaysia, 20 percent in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, 15 percent in Kuwait, 12 percent in Bahrain (12 percent), 10 percent in Oman are expected to be lost due to the pandemic.
An earlier study by the Foreign Employment Board had also shown that a large number of workers are likely to return to Nepal at the earliest as they have lost their jobs.
The report said that while the jobs have dried up abroad and workers are counting days to return home, 115,000 aspiring migrant workers could not go abroad even after receiving their labour permit. Similarly, 328,681 workers’ pre-approval remains suspended.
Likewise, employment opportunities in Nepal in the foreign employment sector have also been affected due to the crisis. Around 50,000 people working in 853 recruiting agencies, its 27 branches, and agencies providing pre-departure services such as medical examination centres, orientation and training centres, and insurance companies, have been directly affected, according to the report.
Shrestha said it will take several months for the labour migration sector to bounce back to normal in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic.
“As per our calculation, a minimum of one year will be required for things to start getting normal. However, there are tough days ahead as our labour migration sector has focused mainly on the Persian Gulf countries,” said Shrestha. “We don’t have an alternative as the government hasn’t come up with a long-term plan to get people working within the country.”