Nepal: Women’s Remittance and its development nexus

Ms. Sharu Joshi Shrestha

Program Specialist, UN Women

Migration for foreign employment has largely increased with rapid globalization over the past few decades. Women constitute 50% labour force in the global market. In some countries like the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia women outnumbered male migrant workers. Nepal is also seeing the exodus of people going for foreign employment which has not ended despite the post conflict situation. As per the data of Department of Foreign Employment, within the past three years the number of men that have officially left for foreign employment is at 739,775 and the number of women is at 23,335. However, this could be just a tip of an iceberg as many Nepali men and mostly Nepali women are accessing foreign employment via India to avoid the de facto and de jure restrictions imposed in Nepal.  The Ministry of Labour and Transport Management estimates that there are approximately .3 million documented and undocumented Nepali working in various foreign labour destinations besides India and women comprises 10to 15% of this total. 

Remittance forms a blood line to Nepal’s economy and without which Nepal’s economy would have long faced severe crisis. However, there has been limited analysis beyond the point of the remittance being received. Remittance also needs to be analyzed in a disaggregated manner especially in terms of impact and use of the remittance received from men and women.  It is to be noted that most of women in foreign employment are concentrated in domestic work and care work which is linked with the global care chain which is currently facing a vacuum due various reasons creating a huge demand for the care work. Domestic work and care giving role are intrinsically associated with women and despite large contribution of women in this sector; this is an area which remains undervalued. The significance of women’s role in producing and revitalizing the “working” members vital to the functioning of the economy is largely invisibilised. However, Nepali women’s involvement as domestic worker in various foreign destinations to fill the vaccum has to some extent helped to monetize the contribution of women in the care sector, but the nature and place of work and lack of policies and monitoring system for domestic work limits the benefits received by women engaged in this sector.  Foreign employment for many women is a strategy for survival of the family and for many is a forced choice.  A 2005, UN ESCAP study states “global experience shows that the female labour export has considerable impact on the survival of many families in absolute and relative poverty”. With the large involvement of both women and men in foreign employment, there is a change that we see in the traditional family patterns. The issues of transnational families, the lack of care of children and the changing role of men and women as contributors to family survival is also a vital aspect that needs to be analyzed.

These are the pertaining socio economic issues resulting out of the growing phenomenon of foreign employment which requires multi pronged and multi-stakeholders’ engagements if we are to truly benefit from the remittance based economy. When the Global Forum of Migration and Development have realized that without addressing the issues of Gender, family and migration the chain of migration and development cannot be linked. In the country which sees an exodus of estimated 800 plus persons a day and we are boasting of 232.58 billion remittances in just current fiscal year and 11% of those contributors are said to be women, we need to make concerted efforts to address the issues of gender, family and migration as vital concerns of our development agenda and a major focus of all economic discourse. 

Why women migrate?

“Feminisation of Poverty “is a major factor for Nepalese women in seeking a global market for their labour – related service. The brunt of poverty falls disproportionately upon women due to gender discrimination; therefore, women experience greater livelihood insecurity than men do, both for themselves as well as for their families. During Census 2001, only 17% of the households reported that the women in their families have ownership on the house, land and the livestock. It is also true that female comprise 31% of all paid workers as against 69% male (CBS, 2001).  Similarly, the ratio of estimated female to male earned income is 0.51 and the estimated earned income (PPP US$) is 949 for female as against 1,868 for male (UNDP, 2005). Expert analysis show that female  headed households show lower literacy and educational status, smaller size of land holding, high dependency ratio and lack of access to information media (Acharya, 2003).

In the current era of globalization, women are found to grab global employment opportunities to ease poverty at home. Foreign women’s labour in the care economy is in high demand in developed countries due to the so-called demographic asymmetry, especially the declining fertility rate and the high life expectancy (ESCAP, 2005). A UNIFEM/NIDS study shows that one third of respondent said that they migrated due to problem in their family.


Frequency (%)

Poor economic condition


Sickness in family




Spouse separated




Death in family


Husband marrying again






Source: UNIFEM/NIDS 2006

Though shouldering economic burden is the primary reason to migrate for employment for many Nepali women, issues like gender discrimination and marital discord are equally a stronger push factor for some Nepali women. More and more Nepali women are now engaged in foreign employment not as a dependant or accompanying their spouse but are the primary migrant contributing as primary bread earners. They are filing in the position of their husbands who have either passed away or are unable to work due to sickness/disability or unemployment, and those women who have separated or have been abandoned by their husband/family.

Where do women work?

UNIFEM/NIDS studies have shown 66% of the respondents having gone for domestic work. This can be further correlated with the data shared by MoLTM that 90% of women that go for foreign employment are undocumented. To take note that the government still restricts women to go for domestic worker especially in the Gulf country. The conflicting situation of the demand sector and the restrictive policy is also cited as one of the possible reason for this large number of undocumented flow especially among women.

There is a need to understand why there is a large presence of women in the domestic sector of worker? There is also a valid economic reason behind this phenomenon. Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property. In Nepal, the Population and Housing census 2001 states only 5.5% of household reported ownership of house in women’s name, 7.6% HH reported of women owning livestock and 10.8% of HH reported women’s ownership on land.  With no asset to invest and/or lack of willingness of the family to invest on girls and women, domestic work that entails no investment as all the cost are borne by the employer is very lucrative for women.

More so as shared earlier women are intrinsically linked with their role in household and care work and considered as an extension of their household work and considered to be their “comparative” advantage. With literacy level only at 42% women are most comfortable to work within the house as they have limited skills and life opportunities. Hence it is the preference of the household to send women as comes out to be cheaper in comparison to men going for work.

Similarly, due to the vacuum created in the global care chain due to large number of women moving out from the house to join the formal labour force and the age of the older people is increasing, there is a global demand for the area of domestic work and will no doubt going to increase.

Besides domestic work, there is also a high demand of women workers in the entertainment sector, service sector like care giving, nursing, restaurants, factories, department stores, security guard, airlines, ships etc.

Types of work done by Nepali women


Types of work         

Frequency (percentage)

Domestic work


Factory work


Restaurant work


Office work






Nursing home staff


Work in shopping center




Source: UNIFEM/NIDS 2006


Remittances have significant macroeconomic effects in several countries of origin like Nepal. It is stated that remittance now contributes 23.6 percent in GDP, which highest in South Asia. According to Nepal Living Standard survey 2004, poverty had been reduced to 31 percent from 42 percent. Same study revealed that among remittance sender 11 percent were women. This data validated Seddon & Gurungs’s findings of New Lahure in 2002, that women were 11 percent contributors.

The table below shows the trend of contribution to the country despite global financial recession.

Remittance flow: Formal Informal (NRs)

Year – remittance received

61 billion

2060- 061

90 billion

2061- 062

108 billion

2062- 063

129 billion

2063- 064

204 billion

2065- 066

223 billion

2066- 067

262 billion


 Foreign employment has come as a boon to Nepal’s economy. It has not only supported the conflict torn economy but also provided both economic and physical security to those that were unable to stay in Nepal. The negative impact on tourism industry due to the internal armed conflict and the closing of the carpet and garment industry after the pull out of the Multi Fiber Agreement displaced many and hampered the employment opportunities within Nepal. However, the trend has not seen any respite in the post conflict situation after the 2006 peace agreement. Despite the peace agreement, the country still has not been able to stabilize and provide security and stable livelihood options. Hence, it is natural that people seek opportunities to survive be it in Nepal or outside. The liberalized market economy has opened opportunities globally for people to access jobs across borders which have come as a respite to Nepal otherwise the situation of conflict would be worse in Nepal.

Gender and Remittance:

Despite increase in research on gender and migration, remittance has not yet been thoroughly explored. There is dearth of reports and studies that disaggregates remittance by sex, hence there is lack of gender analysis of remittance. Genders matters in the entire process of remittance, therefore it is necessary to discuss on gender dynamics of remittance. A study conducted on “International Labour Migration of Nepalese Women: The Impact of Remittance on Poverty Reduction by Dr. Chandra Bhadra” have stated that women’s remittance has been able to contribute in achieving the Millennium Development Goals especially 1(End poverty and Hunger) and also contributing to Goal 2 (Universal Education), 3 (Gender equality), 4 (Child Health) and 5 (Maternal Health). The study states that women’s remittance have had significantly contributed on overall poverty reduction and on household capital formation leading to improvement in the quality of life. Women migrant workers also bring social remittance i.e. knowledge, skill, exposure, confidence. Migration and remittance have increased women’s self stem by bringing about positive change in their identity and their gender role.  Similarly, a study conducted with NIDS shows that women are contributing to various purposes with their remittance.

Use of women’s remittance

Table: Use of saving brought back from foreign countries


Frequency (percentage)

Paying back loans


In sending family members abroad


Constructing house


Sending children to good school


Lending out money for interest


Medical treatment of family members


Purchase land


Setting up business


Bank saving


Buying daily necessities


Brought gold/jewelry




Source: Source: UNIFEM/NIDS 2006, Field survey July – Dec 2002 

The above data highlights on the wise and productive use of the remittance to benefit the families. The same respondents shared that the remittance that their men earn are invested entirely on a different sector mostly in big business enterprises and on their own entertainment.  These are eye opening facts which made country to rethink that women are not passive beneficiary of development rather economic actors who contributes to poverty alleviation. Hence, the country achieves Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction and other subsequent MDGs with the contribution of women. To take note, women’s earning is very less but they save 61% of their total income and send half of their total earning in the form of remittance.

Social Remittance:

Women are also bringing not only cash but also social remittance i.e. knowledge, skill, training and exposure. Many women have shared that foreign employment has helped to expand their horizon of opportunities and capabilities. The incomes they have earned have enhanced the recognition of their contribution and accordingly they are now made integral part of family decisions and also at the community. They feel energized and empowered.  The evaluation of the economic security programme focused on reintegration initiated by UNIFEM in collaboration of Ministry of Labour and transport Mangment for the returnee women migrant workers and the migrant families with the objective to use the remittance to create the alternative livelihood option, have shown that the enterprise development programme among this target groups (returnee and spouse of the migrant workers) is more effective as returnee women have the inherent risk taking characteristic which is important for an entrepreneur and have the additional advantage of the exposure of working in a foreign country, the sense of independence that they have acquired out of traveling alone far and wide and the additional ability to eek the living and earn in mostly the adverse situation in a foreign land and have understood the culture of earning and saving. This could be some of the characteristics that have made the programme so effective. To take note, out of the total  497 returnee women migrant workers and members of migrant families that received entrepreneurship development training 336 have initiated some kind of enterprises and 158 are on pipeline within the period of a year. The following table will further substantiate the enhancement of various skills as responded by the returnee themselves. 

Table: Respondents experiences on the  advantages  of  migration


Response frequency


Improvement in economic condition than before


Improvement in skills and experiences than before


Improvement in social relationships than before


Improvement in social status than before


Improvement in legal status than before


Improvement in personnel attributes than before


Increase in self- confidence than before


Source: UNIFEM/NIDS 2006, Field survey July-Dec. 2002

Social Cost of foreign employment

Notwithstanding the positive impacts on livelihood and income at the household level, women’s migration bears social and human costs comprising national and international magnitudes. The cost of women’s migration for work can include brain drain and care drain, the social consequence of separation from family members, women becoming irregular migrant due to restrictions in immigration (both in the country of origin and/or the country of employment) and exploitation and abuse of female workers (ESCAP, 2005; Tullao and Cortez, 2006; UNDP, 2005). 

Foreign employment cannot be considered a long term solution and an alternative to sustain the economy. For example, Philippines are one of the major counties in Asia that sends women migrant workers for foreign employment since the 70s, but the country was not able to bring out policies and programmes that could address the changing socio-economic dimensions brought in by the transnational families and the overt policy focus on foreign employment as an industry. 

Forced migration becomes costly for the individual, family and the country as whole. In addition, women’s international migration becomes costlier when it is done in a compulsive condition. The current trends have shown that most of the men and women are leaving the country to look for an alternative livelihood options. The recent evaluation conducted for the economic security programme mentioned above have indicated that 94% of women especially those with children have responded that they would not re-migrate for foreign employment as they have earned from the enterprise. The average earning of these entrepreneurs is at NPR 8472.50 per month.

In such forced circumstances there is little choice for women to explore opportunities and plan out their decisions. A study conducted by UNIFEM in partnership with People Forum on the effectiveness of laws and law enforcements agencies to ensure safe foreign employment have stated that 67% of WMWs had left the country without any information and training about the country they are going, about the type of job etc. In addition, women especially to avoid the restrictions imposed by the government on domestic work are largely depending on agents and social network to go foreign employment hence they do not get correct information and required trainings. To avoid government’s restrictions the formal recruitment agencies also rely on the informal agents while sending women for domestic work.  Recruiting agencies reveals a very high demand of women migrant worker abroad as care taker and domestic helper, but they do not want to work on women’s issue for fear of being labeled a trafficker* Dr Arzu Rana Deuba, 2003 UNIFEM/Sancharika samuha.

Ironically, women who are facing the brunt of poverty and are subjugated to historical process of subordination are forced to rely on informal processes and are forced to compete with the well trained and educated counterparts from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Philippines.  It is no surprise that there is always a headline on abuse and exploitation and suicide of Nepali women in these countries of employment. There are cases that many women are exploited physically, sexually, culturally, and economically. There are cases of women’s jail, disappearance, mentally disorder etc. In such situation it is not only women that suffer, but her family and children may fall in vicious cycle of poverty as most of the women are the only hope of the earning. More so, because of lack of information, despite the fact that domestic work is free of cost, agents are exploiting women to pay various charges and women. UNIFEM’s study with Society of Economic Journalist of Nepal, SEJON has indicated that women are taking loan at the average interest rate of 60% from the traditional money lenders.   

It is also to be seriously noted that women to fill the vacuum of care in those countries of employment are leaving behind their children who are growing without the much required parental guidance and care. With both parents in foreign employment, the traditional family structure is rapidly changing and transnational families are posing a new development challenges. Who will be responsible to see that the children that are growing without mothers and fathers are well taken care and that they are not used and abused by the social ills. A long absence of mothers has resulted in distancing in the mother-child relationship. The rapid assessment that UNIFEM has conducted to see the impact on children of parents involved in foreign employment have shown that mostly girl child sees an abrupt end to her childhood when the mother depart for work. She then has to take on the burden to take care of the entire family including the siblings and elderly that requires care. Study also sheds lights in the unresponsive structures of the boarding school where most of the migrant children are growing to meet the specific needs of counseling and support for the children of migrants.  The study mentioned earlier, conducted by Dr. Bhadra, states that the absence of mothers or older sisters has burdened daughters and younger sisters with household work and/or childcare, thus hampering their schooling.

Trends are showing that spouses are misusing the money that has been sent in from foreign employment. Families are disintegrating and men are not ready to take on the changed role in the absence of his spouse. Children, teenage delinquencies, drug addition, early pregnancy, STI and other RH problem, HIV and AIDS, suicide, early death are some of the adverse effect, which we are already seeing reported, that needs to be addressed. Specific to cases like Israel, Japan, etc where women are working independently and earning up to NRs 1Lakh per month being used to living a life in a fast pace, comes directly in conflict with the traditional and restrictive family and societal structures once in Nepal hence fuelling cases of separation and divorce.     

These issues can be disabling factors for the society to gain from the benefit of international migration and also unable the country to deepen the migration and development nexus.

Immediate steps ahead?

Manage the Consequences of restriction to women migrant workers:

The historical subordination with the patriarchal structure of the Nepal’s society, the concept of women as bread earners and women’s mobility beyond the predefined family sphere is still not an accepted norm in Nepal. The welfare and protectionist approach towards women in international labour migration was well reflected in article 12 of the previous Foreign Employment Act 2042 that required approval from the guardian (could be as small as a 10 year old boy child) or the government. Despite such restriction, a study by Seddon and Gurung (2000) revealed that out of the total of $ 932, 432, 32 worth of remittance, 11 percent were sent by women. A letter that came to the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management in 2004 which was also copied to UNIFEM stated the miserable condition of women in Saudi Arabia and the estimated number of Nepali women working there was quoted to be around 40,000. Despite women’s presence and contribution, the pre-assumed and traditional approach in viewing women as passive beneficiaries requiring protection, the government policies still promotes welfare approach. However, such restriction and discouraging policies has not been able to stop the incessant flow of women that are accessing various employment countries depending on the agents and other informal sources and using the porous border with India. After years of advocacy by the rights activists,  the preamble of the new Foreign Employment Act, 2007, Government of Nepal is still debating on whether to restrain on women’s mobility or not. Past experience and experiences of other countries have shown that negating the presence of women in foreign employment mainly in gulf countries where there is large demand of women for domestic work, have fueled the vulnerability of women and contributed in human smuggling and human trafficking of Nepali women and girls. To take note, countries like Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have also adopted protectionist approach and imposed restriction to women which has not been able to yield good results rather made women more vulnerable and invisible. Restriction can only hinder women’s access to formal processes and encourages their reliance on the agent fuelling crime and corruption. It can only divert government’s focus and attention in safeguarding the process for women to reach foreign employment through the regulated, informed and skilled process.

When women are engaged as domestic work an area that is not regulated by labour laws, proactive move from the government is required through the signing of MOUs and bilateral agreements, establishments of embassies, ensuring direct contact with the employers, working with the employers to monitor the situation of domestic workers, creating safe homes in the country of employment, assigning of labour attaches should be the basic minimum immediate actions to be taken immediately. If domestic work in the Gulf is not secure for Nepali women then there should be economic diplomacy and efforts made to divert the flow of Nepali women to the organized sector by investing in human resource development or try to seek the alternative countries where domestic work is protected within the national labour laws or have made special provision for domestic workers which some countries like Hong Kong, Bahrain, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand etc are making efforts to safeguard the sector.    However, Hong Kong is restricted for Nepali since 2006. Likewise Israel market also remains closed after being opened once after 2006. Despite having Nepal’s diplomatic mission, ironically both the countries which have high demand for women and have good safety mechanisms have remained closed for Nepali women. One of the reasons for this restriction by the country of employment is because of the unregulated recruitment and placement process hinging on human smuggling and irregular processes as well as the exploitative recruitment processes which ripped workers of any benefits.

Nepal is advocating for economic diplomacy in the approach paper of Three year Interim plan 2010-2013. The same approach paper also stresses on the creation of employment opportunities within the country and outside Nepal by investing on skilled human resource. This should be serious matter of concern while dealing both internal and foreign policy for Nepal. Similarly, Nepal being the member of WTO needs to negotiate for the rights of Nepali migrant workers, more specifically addressed as part of GATS Mode 4, to protect the rights of migrant workers and maximize the benefit.

Create an alternative to restriction by exploring opportunities in Nepal

As shared above, since foreign employment is still a forced choice for many women with majority being illiterate and poor, the pressure of making uninformed choices have been the very reason for exploitation and abuse.  Hence there has to be opportunities explored for creating alternative economic opportunities in Nepal. UNIFEM has been able to explore on this possibility and have been encouraged by the results as shared above. Experience have shown that tying the enterprise creation with remittance and the migrant families which are also among the potential to try for foreign employment can be very effective way of generating employment. Similar programme has to be explored through the current self employment scheme that is being implemented by the Ministry of Finance, enterprise generation schemes conducted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social welfare should also encompass returnee WMWs and potential migrant population, Ministry of Industry had been conducting similar enterprise generation programme but it has not have had targeted programme for this cohort which needs to be prioritized.  Similarly, series of skill training and enterprise generation conducted through Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, FNCCI and its women’s wing has to also include target programme for this target group.

Ministry of Local Development through its Local governance and Community Development program has to include programme to generate awareness and action at the local level to generate data on those leaving and returning from international labour migration to feed the policies and programme for migrant workers, labour information booth and enterprise development opportunities have to be supported at the local level. Ministry of Labour and Transport Management has to decentralized the recruitment structures and services on skill training and pre-departure information for skill training institutions.  

Nepal is going through a construction boom in urban areas and there is a widespread grievance of lack of trained human resources in this sector and the heavy reliance of expensive labours from India. Most of the workers from Nepal are supporting huge scale constructions specifically in Gulf. Likewise, Nepal had invested a lot in agriculture sector and it still occupies a large share of development investment. However, Many Nepali is working in farms in Israel and Nepal is losing its human resources to support the development of other countries. A vision and supporting programme is urgently required to turn the table to harness the acquired skills of Nepali workers from the engagement in foreign employment and also to divert the flow of foreign employment by repackaging and making the domestic employment opportunities lucrative.

One way to do this is to engage in massive awareness campaigns on the economic literacy that calculates the investment and earning including the orientation on the social costs vs. economic gains. The information should include the detailed information on the available opportunities in Nepal and also in other countries including the gross and net remittance, cost and benefit both in financial and social terms.  

Role of Corporate sector and Corporate Social Responsibility

Migrant workers and member of their families are the clients of corporate sector. Foreign employment has definitely helped to boost the national economy through its value chain. A migrant worker pays to transport sector to come to Kathmandu for any services, then to the hotel sector for the accommodation, to the government sector for its papers, to the recruitment agencies for the process, to the health sector through health check up and insurance companies, to pre-departure and skill training centers, to travel agencies for ticketing, to money exchange companies to send money, and so on so forth. All studies have indicated that money from foreign employment has gone in to buying land and building houses which has contributed vastly in growth of urban sector and the boom in construction area. Thus, foreign employment has generated and supported a large economy that has contributed in generating employment for many and hence feeding many families in Nepal.  Now it is time for this sector to show it’s accountability to the workers that have helped to sustain and expand these sectors. Though, there are some initiatives but it is not adequate. Corporate sector should develop some concrete and substantive scheme to benefit the migrant workers and the members of their families.  Like for instance the remittance agencies and the banks should be able to bring up policies to tie up nominal rate loan with its repayment through the remittance which can be further tied up with nominal rate loan for buying of houses or for enterprise generation. Center for Micro Finance, CMF have already started unemployment insurance through the cooperatives, Sri Lanka has also started the pension scheme for the migrant work once they decide to end their foreign employment. However, most of the remittance that comes to Nepal is yet to come through a formal channels and it is especially so for women. The data below show that hundi is the most preferred mode of sending remittance.

Ways of sending money

Frequency (percentage)





By Hundi and Bank


By Hand




Source: UNIFEM/NIDS 2006; Field Survey July – Dec 2002 

Simple services for payment of school fee especially for women through the remittance could be attractive for women to send remittance through formal channels because 16% of respondent from the UNIFEM/NIDS study have indicated that they send their savings from remittance to send children to school. Some innovative thinking and nominal interest and alternatives to the bulky forms and to writing and reading could contribute in helping migrants, especially women migrants can benefit from the services of the formal banking services which will also accelerate the process of banking the “unbanked”. Recruiting agencies that have the larger share of profit will have to ensure that they have under their corporate social responsibility do more for the welfare of the migrant families as well especially for the children. Counseling facilities in school, contributing to the scholarship and the day care centers, or some kind of health schemes for the migrant families as envisaged by the foreign employment act would be some proactive initiatives. Licensing of the agents and investing on training the recruitment officials on corporate responsibilities and culture as per the Code of Conduct as well as supporting the establishment of local information desks would be appreciative.  The entire corporate sector have responsibilities to support the migrant organization and the migrant families by establishing funds to help them organize, generate awareness and create opportunities of starting some enterprises in Nepal.  The communication sector one sector that has reached to remote part of Nepal and this sector have been aided by the services used by millions of Nepali families scattered in various countries. There is a good example of sending remittance through the mobiles in some African countries which makes the entire process cost effective and efficient. Despite some isolated initiative there have not been any visible and high impact initiatives that have been initiated by the corporate sector for the migrant workers.


Special measures in foreign employment Act 2007 to ensure women’s economic security and rights
A provision has been included to adopt special measures and reservation for women and disadvantaged groups.
Strict use of national airport to leave for foreign employment.
Mandatory orientation training and the reimbursement of training fee.
Establishing Safe house in countries of employment.
Free legal treatment by Government.

Support for the Education, Health and Child Care for children of migrant workers.

Mandatory insurance of NPR. 0.5  million and immediate support of NPR. 0.1 million in case of death and disability.  

Government of Nepal has through the new foreign employment Act has recognized the contribution of both women and men through their remittance to Nepal’s economy and have formalized its commitment to make this sector regulated, safe and dignified for the workers. It has also recognized women’s role in this sector and have included various provisions like the reservation for women in the job demands to making pre-departure information fee of cost. It has also made provisions to open shelter homes in the country of employment, assignment of women labour attaché in these countries of employment. It has provisions to support the children of women migrant workers through day care sectors and scholarship scheme for children of migrant as well as supporting for reintegration scheme for migrants to address the issue of forced and re-migration. However, as in many cases the implementation of these exceptionally well thought provisions are a real bottleneck. The complexity of the sector cannot be addressed in isolation and requires multi-stakeholder approach and engagement. The dimension of foreign employment especially for women migrant workers and the diversities within the countries of employment, type of work engaged in, the migrant status, their ability to earn and maximize the opportunities all have to be analyzed in detail to have clear policies to address these diversities.

Despite large concentration of women as domestic help or care givers, its lack of recognition within the national labour laws makes the situation difficult to monitor. The unregulated and unprotected area can remain a breeding ground for various forms of abuse and exploitations. It is appreciative that the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management is finally addressing these issues in a pilot basis in 4 countries namely Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and U. A.E. This will not guarantee that women migrants can now be 100% secure but will to some extent curb the unmonitored flow of Nepali WMWs and offer some institutional coverage and protection to women going to these countries to work in domestic sector. 

There is a strong voice within the global and local women’s movement in the invisibilisation of the contribution of women in the care sector and considered unproductive and not accounted. Women are because of their role within the house suffer from inequitable situations and bears the opportunity costs unable to maximize on the gains of personal development. The Census 2001 have somehow tried to recognized women’s work in activities like collecting fuel wood and water and their involvement in the production of goods for the consumption of household under extended economy and reflecting it on the National Accounting system. In the context when women have entered the global market to fulfill the vacuum in the care sector, this area has to be recognized as work with adequate provision to ensure decent working conditions and social security provision for the domestic workers and care givers.

This will also reduce the ambiguity and risks of abuse of women leaving for foreign employment via India using their personal contacts or depending on the agents and help to visible and document the presence of women in foreign employment. In the present situation, the forthcoming census that will generate information pertaining foreign employment by mapping displacement from conflict to foreign employment, information on under 16 children living without parents will bring more information on those engaged in foreign employment. But census exercise will remain ineffective if the respondents are unaware of their role in providing correct information and the impact of having data to develop policies. This is an area that requires massive awareness campaign.

The blanket approach on assessing women’s involvement and the use and flow pattern of remittance needs to be looked into in isolation. The feminized face of poverty has to be addressed if we are to help women to benefit from various human development opportunities. Banks process and papers are cumbersome and inaccessible for illiterate and poor women. Just because women have no property or any asset is left out to access loan from bank. A study conducted by UNIFEM with Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal has shown that women repayment rate among women taking lean from Agriculture Development Bank for foreign employment is as high as 99 %. This needs to be cashed in by financial sector to provide services to women. From cradle to grave that is how banking sector services should be; I remember the words from a prominent banker in Nepal. But women are still relying in the traditional money lender in high interest rate and lending their hard earned cash to either friends or relatives with no guarantee of return. There has been limited accountability of the local governance to the issue of foreign employment. The remittance is helping to strengthen the local economies and migrant workers are paying their tax in their communities. The revenue that gets generated from the passport issuance of the migrant workers has to be used for their benefits as well. The local self governance act has decentralized power and budget to the local level. However, the local budget has so far no intervention to create an enabling environment for the migrant workers and the members of their families.

The issues are varied and there is a need for a multi pronged approach with the multi stakeholder’s involvement. Though roles of line ministries like Ministry of Labour and Transport Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Home, Ministry of Local Development can be clearly seen, the roles of Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Youth, etc also have district role within. Similarly, the partnership with the Non government organization, private sector including the banks and other corporate sector and the media is equally required.  In a time when the government is also keen on public private partnership, it is time that some initiatives are taken up by the private sector to help the migrant worker, the migrant families and the country as a whole to benefit from this huge phenomenon of international labour migration and to link migration with development in actual sense.

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I agree


  • Posted on - 2012-01-18    by     reecha tiwari
  • interesting article