As waves of workers return home, pressure has been mounting on local governments to provide them with temporary employment until the pandemic’s economic fallout subsides. Like Suraj, many returnees have come home with valuable skills learnt abroad.
Mayor of Badigad Rural Municipality in Baglung, Mehar Singh Paija attributes the lack of jobs for returnees to the fact that there is no internal revenue generation. “A lack of funds has affected our plans to generate employment based on the returnees’ skills, knowledge and mindset,” he says.
Ward Chair Arjun Kharel proposes another solution to the employment fix. He suggests making economic activities labour-intensive by replacing heavy equipment with manpower.
Between 8 March and 2 July, more than 810,000 workers have returned home from India alone. An additional 25,000 have returned from 21 other countries, mainly in the Gulf and Malaysia.
Pre-COVID-19, approximately 1,600 Nepalis left the country per day in search of employment elsewhere. Forced out by a lack of opportunities at home, many are desperate to go back to work even if they don’t know when.