Foreign employment agencies decry government’s notice calling for licence renewalCompanies engaged in the foreign employment sector have said that they cannot apply for renewal as their business has remained completely shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government notice asking the companies engaged in foreign employment sector to renew their operation licences before the end of this fiscal year has been met with an outcry.
The Department of Foreign Employment on Saturday published a notice, asking all recruiting agencies and foreign job training centres to complete their licence renewal process within the month of Asadh or before the new fiscal year begins.
The concerned companies have, however, called the department’s notice unfair. They have accused the department of being ignorant of their plight, saying the foreign employment sector has been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic with a complete suspension of labour migration for months now.
“The foreign employment sector is one of the most affected sectors due to the global pandemic. There is no guarantee when the labour migration will resume because it not only depends on our country but also labour destination countries,” said Raja Ram Gautam, president of Federation of Foreign Employment Orientation Association Nepal, which represents 155 organisations providing pre-departure training to migrant workers.
“We are struggling to pay our rents and staff amidst this lockdown. Now, the department is asking us to complete the licence renewal within a month. This is an added burden on us.”
After Covid-19 cases erupted in labour destinations like Malaysia and the Persian Gulf countries, the Nepal government decided not to send Nepali workers on foreign employment.
Recruiting agencies, hiring and supplying Nepali migrant workers to foreign employers, have also expressed their reservations with the department’s notice.
The Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA)—the umbrella organisation of 853 recruiting agencies—issued a statement, urging the government to reconsider its decision.
The association’s main worry stems from the provision which makes it mandatory for recruiting agencies to send a minimum of 100 workers for two consecutive years for the renewal of their operation licences.
Sujit Kumar Shrestha, the association’s general secretary, said not all recruiting agencies will be able to produce the evidence of sending 100 people for foreign jobs annually for two years in a row when the labour migration has been halted for months because of the pandemic.
“Labour migration to Malaysia was suspended for 17 months. It had been just a few months since the suspension was lifted when the pandemic happened, shutting down everything,” Shrestha told the Post.
“Recruiting agencies have not been able to work. Also, there has been a committee to reconsider this provision for this year, but now the department’s decision has added to our trouble.”
The contentious provision of supplying 100 workers annually to foreign job destinations for two consecutive years became part of the law after Parliament passed the fifth amendment to the Foreign Employment Act (2007) in March last year. The government had also increased the gurantee amount for recruiting agencies at the time.
In light of the pandemic’s impact on the labour migration sector, the government was moving ahead to repeal the provision.
According to Shrestha, the three-member committee formed to study the amendment of the rule has already submitted its report to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
“The provision is due to be amended. The Department of Foreign Employment should consider the extraordinary condition that has arisen because of the pandemic and make it easier for recruiting agencies,” Shrestha said.
Meanwhile, the department has said that the notice for licence renewal is part of the regular process that takes place every year as the fiscal year nears its end.
“The department cannot change the rule. We are just doing our routine work and we are already running late because of the pandemic,” said Bhola Nath Guragain, spokesperson for the department. “The department is only facilitating the renewal process.”
The pre-departure service providers have said the government should relax the licence renewal rules for this year and give time so that they could recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“All other sectors were given some kind of relief package by the government to cope up with the effects of the pandemic. But the foreign employment sector got nothing,” said Gautam. “We have already gone into losses and banks are not giving anything to us. We hope the government will consider our plight and offer us some relief.”