Malaysia, the largest destination for Nepali workers, hired only 25,635 Nepali workers in the last three months, nearly 68% less than what it hired in the same period a year earlier, according to the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE).
As a result of low demand from Malaysia, there has been slight increase in the number of workers going to countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The free-visa-free-ticket regime, which came into effect from July 8 this year, obligates the employers from seven labour receiving countries of the Gulf and Malaysia to bear cost of visa processing and air ticket to hire workers from Nepal.
“We have seen nearly 80 percent decline in job demand from Malaysia in recent months. It means we can expect the number to drop further in the coming days,” said DoFE Director Bhesh Bahadur Karki.
Except in the security sector, where only Nepali citizens are eligible to work, there has been a drop in demand in all other sectors, including plantation and manufacturing.
The scheme, which applies to workers going to Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, is expected to reduce financial burden of aspirant migrants by a significant margin.
Under the new provision, Malaysia-bound workers have to pay a maximum of Rs 20,000 as recruitment fee, down from Rs120,000 they had to pay to go even for unskilled jobs.
Recruiting agencies in Nepal said that Malaysian employers, mostly smaller companies, have started to hire workers from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia after Nepal adopted the low recruitment policy.
Malaysia earlier this year had signed an agreement with Bangladesh to recruit 1.5 million workers within three years.
“Countries like Bangladesh are not only providing cheaper workers but also paying hefty sum in commissions to local agents for providing job quotas.
“Recruiting agencies here were doing the same earlier but it’s impossible to do that with the new rule in place,” said Bal Bahadur Tamang, former chairperson of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies.
Malaysian employers generally hire workers through local agents who recruit migrant workers from various labour receiving countries.
The job demands are given to recruiting agencies from countries willing to pay demanded commission.
Furthermore, smaller employers are not willing to fund air ticket and visa.
NEFEA representatives have been lobbying relentlessly to get the low cost provision scrapped, arguing that lesser demands from Malaysia could have serious repercussions on the country’s economy.
Nepal received USD 971,110 as remittance in fiscal year 2013/14 .
According to Nepal’s embassy in Kaula Lampur, an estimated 700,000 Nepalis are currently working in Malaysia, nearly one fifth of Nepal’s total migrant workforce.
“It would have been better had the government done proper homework before introducing the new scheme. The new rule should be either revised or new countries should be explored,” said Tamang.
They warned that the decline in demand could affect the country.
Officials at the Ministry of Labour and Employment said they will stick to new policy, pointing at increasing demands for Nepali workers in the Gulf.
DoFE statistics show that Qatar and Saudi Arabia continue to increase their quota for Nepali workers irrespective of the new rule.
Experts say the government should enforce the scheme properly instead of revising it, given the scale of exploitation and abuse Nepalis are facing in Malaysia.
In a recent interview with the Post, former foreign minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who had lobbied for enforcing the low cost recruitment, said that it would be wise to stop sending workers to Malaysia.
He had urged authorities to stop sending Nepalis to Malaysia for interim period, saying that he had found widespread abuse and exploitation during his field visits.
“It would be counterproductive to send workers there without massive policy-level reforms to promote and protect rights of workers,” he said.
Nepali embassy in Malaysia had also suggested that the government halt sending workers, claiming that it was impossible for the understaffed mission to oversee such a huge number of workers. – From Kathmandu Post