Migration no solutionThe happiness is missing in families although they might have become more affluent
Many questions come to my mind when I travel from Lazimpat to Narayan Gopal Chowk in Kathmandu. Seeing the ever-present queues of youths in front of various embassies makes us think twice. We used to have the same kind of queues in front of the Department of Passport at Narayanhiti. These queues often become a hot topic of discussion among passengers stuck in traffic during office hours.
The number of youths going abroad for various reasons is increasing day by day. But the queues in front of the UAE, Japanese, Qatari, Saudi Arabian and US embassies make us ponder because a majority of the youths are travelling to these countries either for employment or higher education. The scene is similar in front of the German Embassy in Gyaneshwor. The number of people migrating abroad through Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) is equally high. It seems that for good or bad reasons, going abroad is the only solution for the Nepali people who are facing a plethora of problems.
Making ends meet
Mass migration, however, does not have a very long history in Nepal. The trend picked up only after 1990 when it became possible for Nepalis of all social strata to travel abroad. The political change of 1990 was good as it established democracy in the country, but it failed to create economic opportunities for the swelling population. This should be seen as major element that encourages people to leave their country. This we can take as the first wave of migration in the context of Nepal after it was opened to the outside world in 1951.
The second wave started with the forces of globalisation in tandem with technological changes. With the introduction of simplified forms of communication, people living in far flung regions also came to know about many new things. This also encouraged them to go leave their homes. Globalisation also provided opportunities to go abroad for higher education. Today, we can see many of our compatriots placed in very good positions abroad. They have also become a source of inspiration for many people back home. The number of Nepalis residing abroad, other than India, has already crossed 3 million.
What is interesting is that while the number of students travelling abroad is increasing steadily, the number of people going abroad as migrant workers is decreasing. For example, 56,059 students obtained no objection letters from the Ministry of Education in the current fiscal year, up from 32,489 in the last fiscal year. Meanwhile, 382,871 persons obtained labour permits in fiscal 2016-17, down from 403,693 in fiscal 2015-16, according to the Department of Foreign Employment. Generally, youths from middle class and lower income families prefer to work in the Gulf countries. Malaysia is the most popular destination among Nepali migrant workers. Apart from lack of opportunities, nepotism and political instability have also compelled many people to leave their homes.
In addition, the desire to make quick money to fulfil the desires brought about by a culture of consumerism is yet another factor which is forcing people to go abroad for employment. However, many people go abroad just to make ends meet. However, outward migration has also brought problems. Society is facing a real crisis, as are families. In the absence of parents, children are going astray and getting involved in activities which are not good for them. There is no interaction between children and their parents which is not good for having a healthy society. Neither is the money earned abroad being properly spent for the benefit of the family, society and country.
The way forward
It seems that the trend of outward migration isn’t going to subside. Parents who are working in the Gulf countries would like to send their children to universities in the West for higher education. Those without the necessary qualifications to join university will be sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Europe on resident visas. This can be verified by the fact that the number of students enrolling in classes such as TOEFL, IELTS, GMAT and SAT is also increasing. The awareness level is so high among Nepali parents that they will send their kids abroad for higher education at any cost. These parents include both types, those who work abroad and those who work in the country. Whatever the reason for going abroad, what is certainly true is that it is taking a heavy toll on society. The happiness is missing in families although they might have become financially stronger.
Therefore, the government should introduce pro-youth policies which will allow youths to engage in economic activities in their homeland. The best way, perhaps, would be to introduce vocational education which will provide them the skills necessary to engage in economic activities. Nepal is a country with young population. In 2018, the average age of its citizens was 21.6 years. The burgeoning youth have the potential to steer the economy in the right direction provided the state is able to tap on their abilities and retain them. Investment in education and health will give some impetus in this regard. Additionally, we have encouraged internal migration which might give the economy a different kind of boost. We also need to harness the skills of returnees. If we really want to have prosperity in the next 10 years, we have to empower the whole society.