Social Science Baha

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Poverty Forcing Women Into Migration: Report

13 July 2017
The Kathmandu Post

What forces women to migrate to foreign countries for work and put themselves at risk?

A report made public on Wednesday has outlined poverty, lack of “respectable” and “well-paying” jobs and stigma associated with “low-status” jobs among others as the main reasons that drive women to leave the country in search of work. 

“A Study on Causes of Women’s Migration to Foreign Employment and Ways to Reintegration them into the National Labour Market” is a compilation of a survey conducted among 1,210 women—those who returned from foreign employment and non-migrants—in Jhapa, Sindhupalchok, Nawalparasi, Kaski and Kailali. 

The report, prepared by researchers of the Social Science Baha, with the support from the UN Women, shows 55 percent of women migrated to improve their household economic conditions, 24 percent to ensure a better future for their children and 22 percent to get out of debt.

The survey was conducted in 22 field sites of the five districts. 

Some women were found to have left the country for work to escape family conflicts and avoid stigma of being single women. Easy availability of “brokers” who promise jobs in foreign countries also forced some to leave the country, according to the report. 

According to 2016 data of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, number of women seeking labour permits to work in foreign countries had increased by 106 percent from 2010-11 to 2014-15. 

The number of men seeking labour permits in those five years had increased by 39 percent. 

The report says women migrant workers suffered long working hours and abuses like denial of leave, no day off and confiscation of passports. 

Of the total women surveyed, 32 percent said they suffered verbal abuse while 8.9 percent said they were subjected to physical abuse. Less than 2 percent respondents talked about sexual abuse. 

“Women get nervous when they are asked about sexual abuses. Only a few chose to answer,” said one of the researchers. 

The research has shown no significant differences between the returnees and non-migrants in terms of primary working situation. 

The salary situation for the returnees and non-migrant women in Nepal has been found somewhat similar. 

Only 34 percent of returnee women were found to have worked in the labour market such as regular or casual work, self-employed or commercial jobs, and 31 percent women have expressed their desire for remigration. 

“Those who returned had brought back caretaking skills than professional skills. We have to offer them additional skills and entrepreneurship trainings to bring them back to labour market in the country,” said Purushottam Nepal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry. 

Nepal Industrial Policy- 2011 provides 35 percent discount to register women owned enterprises and Foreign Employment Policy 2012 provides social and economic reintegration packages for the returnees, but they are yet to be implemented yet.

The survey shows

  • 55 percent of women migrated to various countries to improve their household economic conditions
  • 24 percent said they reached foreign land for job to ensure better future for their children 
  • 22 percent of respondents said they flew abroad for work to get out of debt
  • Of the total women surveyed, 32 percent said they suffered verbal abuse 
  • 8.9 percent said they had been subjected to physical abuse
  • Less than 2 percent respondents talked about sexual abuse, but researchers say this could be because women tend not to respond when asked about sexual abuses they had suffered


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