Qatar recently announced a Labour Re-Employment Platform that allows foreign workers who have lost jobs to obtain new employment. This is a welcome move for laid off migrants who do not want to return immediately. It also makes it easier for both employers and workers because paperwork and procedures of cross-border recruitment can be avoided at a time when there are limited flights.
There are an estimated 6,000 Nepali workers, mostly caregivers, in Israel, and the country is keen to take 500 new Nepali workers in the sector through its government-to-government mechanism.
Sita Jamkatel spent 10 years in Israel as a caregiver starting out at Rs42,000 a month, and by the end of her stay was earning a monthly Rs180,000. Israel has strong labour protection rules, and allows workers to legally change employers.
“Israel gave me an opportunity to stand on my own feet and also provide for my son and mother,” says Jamkatel. “I was a good student, but was married young and it ended bitterly. My father was killed by the Maoists, so I had no one to depend on.”
Owing to high recruitment costs and malpractices, Israel stopped recruiting Nepali workers through the private agencies signed a pilot arrangement with the government in 2015. However, only 59 new workers were sent to Israel after that.
The labour market is expected to shrink due to the global economic fallout of the pandemic, but it will not be the same in how countries and sectors will respond to the intake of foreign workers.
Expert note that the crisis could actually be an opportunity for Nepal to mobilise the skills of returnees. In addition, foreign employment will persist given the indispensable role migrants play in destination countries. The pandemic has not removed drivers of migration such as ageing societies, declining birth rates, youth aspiration, labour shortages and wage differentials between countries.
But there will also be intensified competition for contracted jobs, and this may translate to high recruitment costs and sub-par terms of employment that workers will be compelled to accept.
With necessary political will, recent examples also show that Nepal’s embassies abroad could lobby for voluntary redeployment programs to help displaced workers or government-to-government schemes to non-traditional destinations with stronger worker protection and higher incomes.