The Nepal mission in Saudi Arabia resumed receiving job requests for approval on 24 January, after a ten-month gap.
“We have tried to systematise the attestation process by requiring the employers to submit all required documents online,” says Prem Upadhyaya, Labour Attache at the Consul General of Nepal in Jeddah. “After scrutinising the paperwork, employers who have met all requirements are asked to bring the original documents and the attestation is completed the same day.”
Some 700 employers have submitted requests for approval to hire Nepalis. Saudi Arabia’s temporary ban on flights from 20 countries including India and Pakistan may actually mean more jobs opportunities for Nepalis in the near term.
Malaysia, one of the most popular destinations, has barred recruitment of new foreign workers even though employers are facing worker shortages. “There is no official confirmation yet but we are in a wait-and-watch mode and have been told informally that they might ease restrictions from March,” says Sujit Shrestha of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (NAFEA).
In the UAE, only semi-government companies have been allowed to issue visas, and not private employers. So, demand, while increasing, is still constrained.
But Shrestha is optimistic about prospects for Nepali workers in Eastern Europe. There has been an increased in demand for construction workers from Nepal in Romania. In addition, Nepali recruiters are also getting inquiries from Croatia and Bulgaria.
Parbat Bhandari of Prudential, a recruitment agency, was able to send 72 workers to Qatar to work in a catering company after a long gap. “There isn’t a shortage of demand for workers in Qatar. But the problem is that quarantine costs for workers are around 2500 Riyal ($666) and employers, especially the smaller ones, are not willing to foot the bill,” he says.
DOFE’s data shows that the private sector has been pummelled by the pandemic. Of the 854 recruiters who are licensed for overseas recruitment, only 281 recruiters mobilised workers last month and only 183 in December-January.
On one hand, they are indispensable to revive this sector that is responsible for close to 90% of the migration but on the other malpractice is still high. Both employers and recruiters are looking to cut corners and make up for lost revenue, and with workers desperate for jobs, the sector is ripe for exploitation.