Social Science Baha

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Migration Realities

15 March 2017
The Kathmandu Post

A report entitled “Labour Migration and the Remittance Economy: The Socio-Political Impact” was released in Kathmandu on Monday. The report is based on a study conducted in five districts—Panchthar, Dhanusha, Nawalparasi, Kaski and Kailali—by the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility at Social Science Baha, a non-profit research organisation in Kathmandu.

The report is valuable in that it provides a fairly wide account of various economic, social and political facets of migration. In broad terms, it argues that while migration has generally been economically beneficial for migrant households, many migrants have also incurred losses, partly because a majority of them have to depend on loans to fund their migration. Having found an alternative source of livelihood in migration, many people now have to rely less on the landed class. Not only are migrant returnees keener about entrepreneurship and economic development, they are also better positioned to challenge traditional power relations.

The report also lends some insight into the gender aspect of migration. The influence of male outmigration has been both empowering and disempowering for women. While some women have been able to exercise greater authority and autonomy, others have been overburdened by the extra responsibilities. Although female migration is on the rise, many young girls do not aspire to it because of social norms regulating women’s mobility as well as greater labour market restrictions on opportunities for women.   

Studies like these are helpful for understanding broader societal trends in a country like ours that has undergone significant and rapid changes in recent decades. Most studies on migration tend to have a rather narrow focus, such as on financial aspects and consumption behaviour. However, because migration is embedded in a historical and political context, research that takes into account larger societal transformations provides keener insight into the complexities of leaving home.

The slow pace of industrialisation in Nepal has rendered migration an undeniable reality for many of our compatriots. Remittances sent by migrant workers have become a mainstay of our economy, accounting for almost a third of it. But the attendant costs are high. Recent exposés have revealed the ways Nepali workers are duped and forced to toil under harsh conditions in different labour destination countries. More than 10,000 Nepalis have died while working abroad. Although the government is making strides in providing social security nets for migrant workers, such as by setting up insurance schemes, it has not done enough for the welfare of migrants and their families. The report rightly recommends measures that need to be adopted to enhance the migration experience, like stronger protection of migrant workers, safer working conditions, easier access to credit and better investment opportunities for remittances. Our government should heed these suggestions.


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