Kunga From Nepal: Labor Migration from Nepal

Over the past ten years, Nepal has seen many of its people leave the country for work opportunities abroad, predominantly in Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.  These migrant workers are usually from village areas and they always face the onslaught of the non-progressive political and economic environment of Nepal in their day to day lives. Much to no one’s surprise in Nepal, many people leave their loved ones, their homes, their goals that they had before, to get a job in the Middle East or South-East Asia. These job hunters seek better opportunities abroad as the pay is good. What you can earn (on average) in one year in these countries can triple the amount of the pay in Nepal. The daily sight of long waiting lines in front of the buildings for the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs captures the magnitude of the “foreign work rush.” It is estimated that on average 500 Nepali workers leave every day for different locations.


(Long waiting lines in front of the ministry buildings – they are waiting to receive approval from the Nepalese government to work abroad)

The “foreign work rush” has been productive and influential to the Nepalese economy. Our country recorded a dramatic increase in remittance (mainly due to workers sending money home) from abroad up until the height of the global financial crisis. Female workers often go to these countries mainly for household-type work. Male workers are mainly involved in construction and factory related work. The rapid real estate growth in Dubai had many Nepalese workers involved in construction, along with many other workers from other South Asian countries. However, the amount of work has slowed down significantly due to fewer projects.  This is especially true in the Middle East, after the housing bubble burst in Dubai and the financial crisis.


(Nepali workers arrive in Qatar hoping to support their families better.)


Many Nepalese workers pay a commission to employment agencies to help them find work abroad.  However, many are unfortunate as the agency that promises work opportunities while in Nepal, evade with the commission money paid by the workers before leaving Nepal. These workers are left stranded in a new country with underpaying jobs, where they are exploited. Many are ill-treated, tortured, killed, raped, and salaries are not paid. These workers lack pre-departure counseling and other important knowledge about the dangers of working abroad. Many live in the streets with a hope that a contractor will come by and pick them up for work. These workers find it hard to go back to Nepal as they wait for their deferred payments from their hiring agent. Life turns out hard for these workers, which isn’t fair as they were facing a hard life back in Nepal. After what happens to them in these countries, all they want is their pay, so that they can go back to Nepal and live with their families no matter what the situation is back at home.


(A dormitory for many migrant workers)


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