Prachi Agarwal & Ruchika Joshi
Nearly two years after the catastrophic earthquake hit Nepal, many parts of the country still lie in rubble. People continue living in shelters made of tin-sheets that were meant to be temporary. The disillusionment with the pace of recovery and the government’s efforts to rebuild is increasingly evident. Against the backdrop of insufficient support from the state, it is the contributions of migrant workers that is keeping Nepal’s economy afloat.
More than half of the households in Nepal have at least one family member in a foreign country, whose earnings help make ends meet back home. Barring the year of the disaster, Nepal has consistently reported an increasing number of citizens leaving the country as international migrants. The data shows many interesting trends. For instance, it is the southern belt of the country, the Tarai, that reports the highest number of out-migrants, both in volume and as a share of population. Both agricultural farms and industrial units in the country find themselves in short supply of labor, as Nepali workers favor moving to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait for work. Nearly 74 percent of the workers that migrate are unskilled and frequent reports of exploitative working conditions raise serious concerns about the quality of life that they are able to secure for themselves abroad.
For the tens of thousands of Nepali workers leaving their homes and families behind, is migration out of the country driven by choice or is it instead a compulsion for survival? Organizations working with migrant families point to the lack of good quality jobs in Nepal as the reason why workers are forced to migrate. And while government documents like the Industrial Development Perspective Plan – Vison 2020 and 2012 TVET Policy propose various policy measures aimed at creating jobs and facilitating a conducive working environment within the country, progress on the ground remains slow at best.
How effectively are these policies being implemented, especially in the aftermath of Nepal’s recovery from the earthquake? How should the government’s job creation strategy change to further inclusive growth? What concrete policy steps will help boost employment opportunities in migrants’ communities of origin? These are some of the key questions underlying ‘Reconstructing Communities: Driving Just Job Creation in Nepal’— a research project undertaken by JustJobs Network in collaboration with the Solidarity Center.
One significant aspect of this research project is to engage civil society and trade unions to craft evidence-based policy recommendations and bolster their advocacy efforts. To support this, the JJN research team is collecting primary data through semi-structured qualitative interviews. Engaging with key stakeholders from the Ministry of Labor and Employment, Ministry of Industry, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Contractors’ Association of Nepal, National Planning Commission, research and advocacy groups, return migrants and various other civil society organizations, Deputy Director Greg Randolph and Research Associate Prachi Agarwal, aim to understand the ground realities and how each of these stakeholders play a role in the way the reconstruction and migration are shaping employment outcomes in Nepal.
The project will engage insights in particular from Sindhupalchowk – a district bordering Kathmandu that was among the worst hit by the earthquake and also witnesses the highest number of female international out-migrants. What insights can Sindhupalchowk provide in developing policy recommendations for Nepal as a whole? For workers employed locally in farming crops and raising livestock, what specific steps can the government take to expand work opportunities? How does gender interact with the nexus of migration and recovery in the district?
JJN’s field visits will help identify key pieces to the jobs puzzle in Nepal and develop effective policy solutions as part of the research project. If channeled in an informed manner, both reconstruction and return migration hold massive potential for promoting shared prosperity and transforming lives through job creation.
Prachi Agarwal and Ruchika Joshi are Associates at JustJobs Network.