Froilan Malit Jr is an associate at the Gulf Labor Markets Migration (GLMM), a visiting scholar at Zayed University and a research fellow at the University of the Philippines. Anurag Devkota is a human rights lawyer at Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice, Kathmandu
Remittances from overseas migrants have been a crucial component in keeping Nepal's economy afloat. With a contribution of 24.1 percent to the national economy in 2020, remittances have had a Dutch disease effect on the national economy. The impending economic crisis in Nepal, as predicted by economic analysts, should prompt the nation to reevaluate the significance of remittances and their influence on the future economy, in light of Sri Lanka's foreign reserve-induced insolvency. The growing contribution of remittances may be increased by emphasizing the skills and training of Nepalis both at home and abroad as a long-term governmental goal.
In cognizance to the current statistics on the stocks of migrant workers on the mover, a centralized mechanism to register the skills and upskilling programs could be a crucial step in creating a better experience for individual workers as well as the country. This is because the number of Nepalese migrant workers has increased dramatically in the aftermath of the COVID 19 pandemic, with more than 62 thousand workers receiving work permits in a single month, spanning from May 15 to June 15 (DoFE). The efficiency of pre-departure orientation/training for workers before working overseas has been contested on the basis of inadequate remuneration of labor and employers' unwillingness to accept skill certificates in the destination country, as well as the importance of matching language and skills. The absence of upskilling programs for Nepali employees in destination countries is a major issue, since it adds to the potential loss of vital remittances to Nepal.
Importance of Competencies in Reintegration
In order to generate investment possibilities for returning migrant workers, the nation needs a system to investigate a potential institutional route for registering human and social capital, such as skills, and to investigate financial routes. This will aid in the retention of migrant workers on the domestic labor market and mitigate the looming economic crisis. It is crucial to realize the significance of providing platforms for migrant workers to generate employment, register human capitals, record, and provide subsidies, loans, or other investment possibilities to create jobs according to those abilities. In its most recent budget statement, the administration emphasized the necessity of keeping and updating data on the skills of returning migrant workers in close collaboration with the local government. In light of the significant increase in the number of returning migrant workers, special emphasis must be placed on accelerating the procedures and platforms to register the skills and give job prospects without further delay.
In the ongoing discussion over the reintegration of returning migrant workers and the necessary policy and institutional arrangements, it is possible to use the best practices of other sending countries. The National Reintegration Center for OFWs, established in the Philippines by the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment and its attached POLO agencies in the destination countries, has been providing counseling services, wage employment assistance, skill training, capacity building, and assistance to Filipino workers stranded abroad. This government strategy can serve as a model for the construction of a government-level reintegration and monitoring system for Nepal.
Similarly, based on the experience in Vietnam, the Department of Labor has also enacted a distinct Law on Employment Support aimed at returning migrant workers. It appears that legislative and structural preparations have been made in this program to inform returning migrant workers about employment prospects and provide guidance on how to register for a job search. In a same vein, encouraging migrant employees returning from overseas to work independently, as well as establishing an environment conducive to self-employment, and encouraging these workers to benefit not only themselves but the prospective returnee migrants, would be beneficial. Despite the fact that these existing systems may have their own shortcomings and emulation may provide logistical challenges, it still remains a relevant model for Nepal to examine and expand, given Nepal's unique domestic labor market situation.
Similarly, future outbreaks or calamities will require reactive policies, a multi-stakeholder committee, and disaster management coalitions. The stalled global economic in the aftermath of pandemic followed by the new brunt of global economic recessions, and the restrictions imposed by popular destination countries’ through nationalization policies have added to the impendingjob crisis. As such, the current crisis should be leveraged to inject flexibility into the existing system. The pandemic and impending economic recessions has cast doubt on the future of employment and prompted remittance-dependent nations like Nepal to rethink their migration policy and the role of skilling and training.
Law and policy framework
Regarding migrant upskilling, certification, and licensing, Nepal's policy and policy frameworks are rife with limitations, thus necessitating the need to explore other international best practices to become more competitive in the long run. The Philippine government was able to strike a bilateral agreement with the UAE that permits Filipino medical professionals (nurses) to get a Health Authority for Abu Dhabi (HAAD) license before relocating to the UAE. This bilateral agreement has not only helped Filipino nurses to become competitive, but also shows their crucial preference and demand in the UAE, GCC, and beyond. Nepal’s governance method does not appear to match any of the indicators of migration governance, including the established principles of labor migration. For instance, there is a shortage of data based on gender, geography, and skills that are necessary for making policy based on facts. In the absence of gender and skill data, the forthcoming integration policies and processes are most likely be weakened. Similarly, the policies and legislation are deafeningly mute on the topics of skill identification, skill upgrading, skill development in response to labor market demands, and skill registration for returnees, in context of Nepal.
The way out
To implement more robust skill recognition practices, it is recommended that a skills recognition protocol that serves as a mechanism for screening skills credentials and further incorporates an assessment of current skills and prior learning, identification of gaps, training aimed at filling those gaps, and assessment of competencies following training be negotiated bilaterally and regionally. Nepal, as a member state of the Colombo Process, Abu Dhabi Dialogue and other regional migration processes, should work to increase the exchange and development of best practices so that other sending governments, like Nepal, may also benefit. Nepal must enhance its domestic institutions in order to collect the required information for the development of future migration strategies.
In addition, Nepal must take into account the reality that labour markets in the destination countries are becoming more competitive, and develop a migration regime with strong skills/training component that can provide long-term benefits for its migrants and their families.