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Job losses in Nepal after Covid surge unlikely to hit Oli’s political fortunes

Nepal PM Oli

Unemployment has only risen in Nepal, hit by a severe second wave of Covid 19 and the subsequent lockdowns. A survey by the Nepal Rashtra Bank last year indicated that more than 60 per cent of the businesses in the Himalayan country may completely shut down. Large number of Nepalese, looking for employment opportunities, are once again firming up plans to move out of the country.

The Gulf countries including Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman remain the most favoured employment destination for the Nepalese. Malaysia is also another country attracting Nepalese youth. “These seven countries host an estimated 1.3 million Nepali migrant workers,” the Kathmandu Post said.

Besides, the number of Nepali people working in India is estimated between 3 and 4 million. “A majority of Nepalis who work abroad are employed in India. But since Nepal and India share an open border, there are no official figures,” the newspaper said.

Also read: With hundreds of thousands of migrants predicted to return home, Nepal needs to brace for a crisis

“Nepal’s youth never saw any future in the country. The Covid 19 pandemic and its impact on the economy have only made things worse,” a Kathmandu based analyst who did not wish to be named told India Narrative.

Two years ago, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had introduced an ambitious employment generation scheme with an allocation of Rs 3.1 billion. But sources said that it has failed to deliver due to corruption.

Eight one per cent of the workers in the informal sector and 1.4 million in home-based work are at severe risk of losing jobs on account of the Coronavirus pandemic, an Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in a study published six months ago said.

The International Labour Organisation earlier noted that a large number of the labour force, especially the youth have opted for overseas migration in search of higher income and dignity at work.

Also read: Nepali migrant workers return to India as covid-19 second wave ebbs

“That hasn’t changed. Nepalese are still looking for lucrative options outside the country with limited employment opportunities here,” a Kathmandu based entrepreneur told India Narrative. “The severe second wave of Covid 19 has hit the economy further and many of us are staring at an uncertain future,” he said.

Also read: Inflow of remittances rises in Nepal, but is this also a cause for worry?

Recently, ANI said that despite a ban put in place by the district authorities, scores of Nepali migrant workers cross the border into India every day amid a gloomy employment scenario. “Despite the halt of public transportation since April 29, migrant workers under desperate circumstances are trying to reach India for employment. Most of these workers are paying outrageous prices for transport in vehicles with passes granted for emergency services,” the news agency said.

Will the issue of unemployment be a cause for concern for Oli?

Interestingly, multiple sources told India Narrative that the rising unemployment problem may not be a major concern for Oli even as Nepal gears up for general elections in November.

“It is true that unemployment has risen but the issue is not a new one. It has remained at the sore for many years. Oli is a man who is otherwise well connected with the grassroots level and this may help him in the upcoming general elections,” one of them said.

Unfortunately, job creation for the youth has not been a priority for the present government in Nepal or, so to say, for any of the governments in the past. The planners and policymakers in the country are indifferent to this problem as they are satisfied merely with the growth of remittance from migrant workers, which accounts for more than over one-fourth of Nepal’s gross domestic product of $30 billion,” the ORF study said.