Pre-departure training uncertain even as government starts issuing labour permitsOfficials say they are waiting for the government to lift the Covid-19 restrictions.
After the government started issuing labour permits to outbound migrant workers, concerns have been raised about how these workers will be receiving the mandatory pre-departure training amid the Covid-19 restrictions.
Starting last week, the foreign employment authorities have partially resumed providing labour permits to migrant workers and even to those migrating on foreign employment for the first time. Permits for the first timers are being issued only on specific days.
The service was affected for nearly a month due to the Covid -19 restrictions when the Foreign Employment Office at Tahachal, under the Department of Foreign Employment, had only been issuing re-entry permits to migrant workers who had returned home on their job breaks and needed to fly back. After stalling its several other services, the office had been issuing the re-entry permits online.
With the office resuming, although partially, its stalled services including the issuance of labour permits for the first timers, it is however still uncertain how they will be provided the compulsory pre-departure ‘orientation training’.
“With the resumption of international flights and pre-permit issuance, recruitment agencies will also start hiring new workers. And these workers will need pre-departure training. So we are discussing how the training can be provided when the prohibitory orders are still in place,” said Krishna Prasad Dawadi, director general of the Foreign Employment Department.
Pre-permit is an approval issued by the government to recruitment agencies that have secured demand for sending Nepali workers. After securing a pre-permit approval, the recruitment agencies can go ahead with the hiring and selection process.
Pre-departure training, which was made mandatory for outbound workers in 2004, is considered one of the most crucial parts of the labour migration process. The training, which is conducted over two days, provides aspiring migrant workers useful information about the labour destination countries including the rules and regulations, traffic rules, labour laws, and local culture and traditions, among other things.
The training helps them deal with potential challenges in the destination countries. Besides, the training also includes information on how to remain safe at the workplace and in the country in general.
The government recently amended the curriculum of the pre-departure orientation training to make it more comprehensive and helpful for workers.
As the services have resumed after several weeks of suspension, officials are expecting a significant increase in the number of workers applying for labour permits in the coming days.
As for the pre-departure training, Dawadi said his office has instructed the trainers in several districts, where prohibitory orders have not been enforced, to conduct the training by following the health protocols.
“Training institutes can also conduct the training in coordination with the local governments,” said Dawadi.
“As for the Kathmandu Valley, the existing prohibitory orders will end next week (on June 14), so we have been waiting to see if the government lifts the restrictions. For now the pre-departure training remains suspended.”
Last week, the Foreign Employment Office had said it would provide its services every Wednesday to those who visit the office in person. But it has decided to provide the services twice a week — on Wednesdays and Fridays — after the number of applicants grew.
According to Dawadi, nearly 500 labour permits were issued on Wednesday.
As the department looks forward to the government easing the prohibitory orders in the Valley next week and hopes to resume the pre-departure training, officials are also concerned about the safety of the migrant workers participating in the training amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Employment issued a notice, expressing concerns over reports that some institutes are conducting the training without following the health protocols.
“Most of these training centres remain closed, but with the resumption of labour permit issuance, they also need to resume their services. We have alerted them to reduce the class size and provide training by observing social distancing and health protocol,” said Matrika Sapkota, a section officer with the department. “It’s also their responsibility not to expose the trainees to infection risks. Any institution found breaching our instructions will face action.”