Nepal’s Europe Dream: To Cheer or Not?

Published On: April 2, 2023 07:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Remittance has been an integral part of Nepal's economy for years, with hundreds of thousands of Nepali migrant workers traveling to various parts of the world in search of better job opportunities every year. However, as much as remittance has been a lifeline for many Nepali households, it may not be the best option to depend on for the country's economy. Remittance is definitely not the most sustainable option for the country's economy. Depending on remittance has led to an over-reliance on foreign sources of income and has weakened the local economy. As Nepali youths leave the country in large numbers every year in search of employment opportunities abroad, the already struggling agriculture sector, for example, faces a severe manpower crunch. This has resulted in vast agricultural fields left fallow, threatening the country's food security and the livelihoods of millions who depend on the sector. The country’s import of even food items including cereals, fruits and vegetables has been skyrocketing. The situation clearly calls for urgent action to address the root causes of youth unemployment and provide better job opportunities within the country.

However, given the current circumstances and lack of opportunities within the country, it seems that remittance is the only option for many Nepalis to improve their livelihoods. That is why the recent news that the government is looking forward to signing labor agreements with a number of European countries is a positive step towards creating better opportunities for Nepali migrant workers and the country's economy as a whole. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security has already started the necessary work to send Nepali workers to lucrative destinations in European countries. The European countries have reportedly made an estimated demand for 50,000 Nepali workers annually.

This news is a godsend for Nepali migrant workers who have been finding their way to European countries through individual labor permits or illegal means. In the last fiscal year, a staggering 7,475 Nepali migrant workers went to Romania, 2,814 workers to England, 5,344 workers to Croatia, and 1,915 workers to Malta. The numbers are equally concerning in other countries, with 995 migrant workers going to Turkey, 164 to France, 106 to Norway, 102 to Italy, 75 to Belgium, and 46 to Denmark for employment. These figures highlight the sheer desperation of Nepali workers to seek better economic opportunities, even if it means putting their lives at risk by taking illegal channels. It underscores the urgent need for the government to take swift action and provide a safe and legal way for Nepali workers to seek employment abroad.

The government has already signed labor agreements with countries like Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, and England. However, there is no bilateral agreement even with Saudi Arabia, the country that employs a large number of Nepali workers. With this news, the government is finally making an effort to expand its labor agreements and provide better opportunities for Nepali workers, albeit outside the country.

It is commendable that the government is making efforts to provide better opportunities for Nepali workers in Europe. However, it is important to note that this is only a temporary solution to a much deeper problem. The fact that an average of 600,000 Nepalis leave the country every year for education or work abroad is a worrisome statistic that highlights the lack of job opportunities and economic prospects within the country. It also raises important questions – if Nepali youths leave the country at this worryingly high rate, who will build Nepal? Will Nepal eventually end up becoming a country where only the elderly and children live? It is even more concerning that many of these Nepalis end up in countries like Malaysia and the Gulf, which are notorious for their poor working conditions, human rights violations, and low income. The government must prioritize creating lucrative job opportunities within the country and invest in the growth of various sectors to reduce the exodus of Nepali youths and safeguard their well-being.

But sadly, that has not happened for years and the country’s reliance on remittance has been only increasing, despite political changes that were promised to be fate-changing for Nepal and Nepalis. So, it is difficult to say whether the news of the government looking forward to signing labor agreements with a number of European countries is something to cheer about for Nepal or not. While it is true that Nepali migrant workers have been seeking better economic opportunities, particularly in the European continent, it is equally crucial to note that the over-dependence on remittance may not be the best option for the economy in the long run. Therefore, while the prospect of Nepali workers finding better-paying jobs in European countries is promising, it is essential for the government to focus on creating sustainable job opportunities within the country to curb the reliance on remittance and secure the long-term economic stability of Nepal.


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