Social values are declining and absence of youths put their conjugal life and other relations in jeopardy
Even though the Foreign Employment Act, 2042 BS paved way for Nepalis to work abroad, the government actually started to find destination countries only after the commencement of the eighth Five Year Plan. Foreign employment rapidly increased when the government started to provide passports from District Administrative Offices starting from 1998.
Launch of mobile apps for Machine Readable Passports (MRPs), issuance of Online Labor Permit and start of free-visa-free-ticket show how serious the government is on foreign employment. Till date, 110 countries have officially been opened for jobs including temporarily banned ones like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. Around 4.3 million Nepalis (15.4 percent of the population) currently work abroad, excluding in India.
We’re still listed as a least developed country where it’s almost impossible to find a well-paying job. Let alone establish new industries, even existing ones are half-operational.
Routine strikes, power-cuts, unionism and unstable policies all keep the job market down and restrict new opportunities. To add to the trauma, natural catastrophes like earthquakes and strategic catastrophes like border blockade have aggravated the situation.
Just as individuals need jobs to survive, countries need foreign reserves to survive. The 21st century is an age of free markets and economies are interdependent. As a member of the World Trade Organization, our economy is no exception. In this age of globalization, adequate reserve of international currencies is a must for international trade.
An import-based economy, our trade deficit is ever increasing. Huge trade deficit in turn badly affects the reserves.
Our foreign currency reserve would not be healthy without remittance. Moreover, foreign currency received through remittance is being used to purchase Indian currency. So the economy might crash without remittance, given the ever-widening trade deficits with India and China.
With the increase in number of foreign employees, remittance has also gone up substantially. In comparison to dismal Rs 2.15 billion (during FY 2050/51), Nepal received more than Rs 665 billion as remittance in FY 2071/72. The importance of remittance for Nepalis economy becomes clear from the fact that it accounts for 29.1 percent of the GDP. It is as such a backbone of our economy.
Foreign employment and remittance received through it thus have massive impact on Nepal. Use of money depends on family status. Most of our people working abroad are from lower middle-class and lower-class families, and their livelihood near completely depends on remittance. Previous research has shown that most remittance was used up in unproductive sectors and for daily expenditure. Receivers of remittance used to spend 80 percent of their money on unproductive sectors as per Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) study on ‘Foreign Employment, Remittance and Nepal’ conducted in 2004.
The same pattern was evident even on Nepal Life Standard Survey 2011 where it was shown that people spend 79 percent of remittance in unproductive sectors. But ‘Savings and Investment Trend of Remittance Receiving Households’ published by NRB on October 2016 shows positive changes in use of remittance. People have started to use remittance in more productive areas and they save more as well as spend more on education and health. According to this report, 28 percent of remittance is used for savings, 9.7 percent for education and health whereas only 23.9 percent is spent on daily consumption.
But is foreign employment an unalloyed good then? The answer is a big NO. Social values have been declining and absence of youths in the village put their conjugal life and other relations in jeopardy. Not only does the country suffer from manpower shortage but family members are also victimized. Polygamy is on the rise. Attraction of nuclear family increased internal migration like never before, quickly reducing the population in the hills.
Only aged peoples are found in the villages there. It’s a pity that within two decades of opening up of the economy, there has been vast erosion in our social values. In spite of positive impact on income, poverty, savings, investment, expenditure and foreign currency reserves, remittance has thus devastated our social values.
In contrast to the weak economy and rare job opportunities, the youth’s aspirations are sky-high and so are the deleterious ramifications of foreign employment. But imposing a blanket restriction on foreign jobs would also be unwise. However better regulation of foreign employment has also become important. It’s still not too late to formulate plans to stop large scale cross-border movements for employment.
This is why there needs to be renewed emphasis on youth self-employment programs.
Moreover, the skills of those who go for foreign employment return with also need to be better utilized in Nepal. In the end, the ultimate goal of foreign employment should be to improve the quality of lives of all Nepalis. It should not come at the cost of our humanity and social values.
The author is with the Higher Government Attorney Office, Rajbiraj, Saptari. Views are personal