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The Year of Migrant Workers

Nepali Times, Nepal, 17 December 2020 - 2020 turned the world upside down, and in Nepal, one of the most dramatic impacts was on the country’s economic mainstay – overseas contract workers who sent home nearly $8 billion during the pandemic.

The year forces us to re-examine long-held assumptions about Nepal’s remittance economy. And on International Migrants Day, Friday 18 December, Nepali Times has a special package of reportage, analysis and commentary on the subject.

When citizens are treated shabbily by a government, their health and education needs are neglected, they have no meaningful employment at home – they will leave. And it may be naïve to expect a state that has created the very conditions for millions of Nepalis to migrate to suddenly be conscious about their welfare.

Nepal’s past governments have used migration as a safety valve, so millions of unemployed youth do not create political instability at home. The money they send back keeps the economy afloat. Nepal’s remittance-to-GDP equivalence highest in Asia at 28% — much more than Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, or the Philippines, and among the Top 5 globally.

Yet, it has never been a priority for Nepal’s bureaucrats, political leaders or legislators to ease the process so workers are not fleeced every step of the way and ensure that their work is gainful, dignified and safe. The rare politicians who have tried to address exploitation have been dismissed. Paying lip service to ‘national heroes’ every International Migrants Day is not enough.



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