Foreign employment is the drug that our country has become addicted to. Only a revolutionary political, economic and social movement can rescue us.
Nepal experiences close to half a million labor migration every year. As per the World Bank report, Nepal’s remittance for 2016 is 31.3 percent of total GDP so much so that it has become the largest recipient of remittance globally, making the country a remittance economy. Interestingly, most of these come from unskilled and semi-skilled labors, majority of them working in the Gulf countries.
It is thus safe to mention that though the World Economic Outlook Database published in April 2017 ranks Nepal as the 53rd for having an average GDP of 4.2 percent for the past decade it still is not being able to retain its labor force because it is yet to match the pace of developing countries especially in terms of infrastructural and capacity development, creation of vibrant and skilled opportunities and training labors accordingly. While this explicitly shows economic health of the nation, it exigent demands to quote the situation as ‘a state of urgency.’ Nepal envisions graduating to developing country status by 2030. Exploring the relationship between labor migration and economic growth is one of the fundamental steps.
The average unemployment rate of Nepal for the past decade is as low as three percent thanks to less tempting, less feasible, less productive and low paying offers within the nation, leaving no other option for the ‘productive population’ but to migrate out of the country and ‘technically’ decreasing the unemployment rate. But this is a mere diversion of a crisis situation. Unemployment persists in disguise.
Remittance has contributed to country’s economy and we all have happily accepted this as the fate of the country. Today studying, working and settling in a foreign land has become an elemental part of growing up for all Nepalis. We often hear people complaining ‘our country has nothing to offer to us.’ The only thing in opulent quantity left for us here is either pollution or corruption.
There are highly developed foreign economies, developing even more with each passing day and with every labor migrating to them from countries as undeveloped/ developing as Nepal. And then here we are, left with increasing amount of unexploited resources, ensuing constraints for the economy to function much below its actual capacity and much lower than its capability, restricting efficient and effective exploration of innovative sectors, focusing majorly on what we have always been focused on: Primary sector sustenance, keeping productivity and manufacturing sector as stagnant as ever and ultimately embedding disguised unemployment.
We as an economy have been failing to effectually address and systemize the intricate relationship between disproportionate development across various regions and sectors of the country, insufficient and unmatched opportunities, low pay, scaled down motivation to work and hence negative migration. The GDP is increasing but at the cost of copious untapped potentials.
There exist hideous sides to these enticing offers from abroad especially from Gulf countries. This has been inauspiciously affecting the society for a long time now. There are many hazardously prevalent dire social aspects which we get to hear in news every few days but somehow forget after few days of expressing distress.
The most common ones are smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons, vulnerable situations of Nepali workers and lack of effective legal protection and with it the emerging challenges in terms of providing assistance and support to the victims. These social threats have an even deeper impact than unhealthy economy.
Definitely, foreign employment is helping the country’s economy sail but at a snail’s pace. The fascinating part is that the foreigners need not advocate for employment in their country, we endorse it for them so much so that marriage is no more considered as the primary social mandate for people, migration is.
Manpower companies, consultancy firms, banks and every possible institution are conveniently pitching for smooth road to overseas land. We want to desperately direct ourselves elsewhere, be it anywhere but Nepal. Foreign employment is the drug that our country has become addicted to. Only a revolutionary political, economic and social movement can rescue us.
Nepalis are working in top multi-national companies worldwide. We are building bungalows in the most expensive cities of the world. We are studying and gaining experiences from the top universities of the world, we are graduating with the most coveted and innovative degrees, we are grabbing opportunities dreamt by many, we are improving our lifestyles tremendously, we are earning name and fame, we are making differences everywhere. But in our own country.
Even 20 percent of such contribution and dedication inside the country for less than a decade can take Nepal to the list of developed countries if there are cooperative infrastructure and functioning system. But as reality strikes, considering it as an impossible dream, we are flying away, injecting foreign incomes into the economy, doing our bit and simultaneously stimulating disguised unemployment in the economy.
The author works as an Economist with Institute for Integrated Development Studies