With time, foreign employment and labour migration have become more common for an average Nepali household. Even though we hear a lot about the difficulties; this trend sees no slowing down. The lack of opportunities in Nepal and the societal pressure to fetch for work outside are cited as the major reasons for this trend. Along with this, there is also an undue expectation with how one’s life might change once they opt for foreign employment.
Number of people who have obtained labour permits
The official numbers for the number of people who go out for foreign employment do not take into account the migrant workers who go to India for work or the migrant worker who take the irregular routes. While the Nepal government has approved 110 countries with regards to foreign employment through recruitment agencies, there are several other countries that Nepali migrant workers have opted for. Including the labour permits given for other countries, there were a total of 128 countries where Nepali migrant workers went to in the FY 2018/19.
Foreign employment has been more common in male when compared to females. In 2018/19, the total labour permits obtained by male migrant workers stood at 91.3%, whereas the total labour permits obtained by female migrant workers stood at 8.7%.
Until 2013/14, there was a gradual increase in the issuance of labour permits. After then, the numbers have gradually decreased. In 2014/15, the total number of permits issued decreased by 3.8%. The April 2015 earthquake and the aftershocks that came later are stated as the reasons for the dip as they affected the lives and the functioning of everyone in the country. The dip in the years after is credited to the decrease in the issuance of labour permits to Malaysia. Malaysia had decreased the demand for the total number of migrant workers due to various reasons. In 2018, Nepal government halted sending labourers to Malaysia in a bid to stop fraudulent activities that were present in the process. Consequently, there was a dip in the total number of labour permits issued as Malaysia, a popular destination for Nepali migrant workers, held the biggest portion with regards to foreign employment destinations.
The Republic of Korea has also grown as a popular labour destination for Nepali migrant workers. For Korea, the Government of Korea sets annual quotas; the foreign employment in Korea comes as a part of the Employment Permit Scheme (EPS). In 2018, a total of 8,107 migrant workers migrated to Korea for work. This was an increase of 8.4% from the previous year.
Major labour destinations
In 2017/18, Malaysia held the largest share of foreign employment with 29.4% of the total share. A total of 104,209 new migrant workers had gone to Malaysia for work (not accounting re-entries). However, the halt in sending migrant workers to Malaysia in 2018 subsequently decreased its share. In 2018/19, Qatar held the largest share of foreign employment with 32% of the total share. A total of 75,024 migrant workers had gone to Qatar for work (not accounting re-entries). Besides these two countries, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also popular amongst Nepali migrant workers.
Future prospects and emerging destinations
The Government of Nepal has also been looking towards expanding destinations by strengthening bilateral cooperation. Some of the emerging destinations for migrant workers include countries like Cyprus, Jordan, Maldives, Malta, Poland, Romania and Turkey. Along with this, in 2019, the Government of Nepal also signed an agreement with the Government of Japan to send workers on a government-to-government modality. Amongst the list of countries that Japan planned to hire workers from, Nepal was the only South Asian country. Japan will be a great opportunity for Nepali workers as it is one of the most lucrative labour destinations in the world. In the future, the Government of Nepal should prioritize destinations as such as it will be a safer option for the migrant workers and will also help earn more remittance. Foreign employment, currently, is deemed as unsafe and there is a need to change that narrative.
 “Labour Migration for Employment, A Status Report for Nepal: 2014/15.” Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, 2015.
 “Labour Migration for Employment, A Status Report for Nepal: 2015/2016-2016/2017.” Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, 2015.
 “Labour Approval Record for Fiscal Year 2074/75.” Department of Foreign Employment, 2018.
 “Labour Approval Record for Fiscal Year Year 2075/76.” Department of Foreign Employment, 2018.
 Mandal, Chandan Kumar. “Japan opens its door for Nepali skilled workers.” The Kathmandu Post, March 25, 2019. Retrieved from the Kathmandu post: https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/03/25/japan-opens-its-door-for-nepali-skilled-workers
This article is based on “Nepal Labour Migration Report 2020“, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security