Recognizing the potential of women would have meant addressing the barriers to their participating and flourishing in the labour market, which would have been further opportune in the context of high male outmigration. Instead, the labour-force participation of women is low at 26% (excluding work carried out for domestic production) while the share of female youth (15-24) not in employment, education or training is over 47%. Among those employed, the median monthly earning of women is two-third of their male counterparts.
The ban on domestic work abroad is an easy fix that can be dismantled in its entirety should a willing leader, or in our case a willing Parliamentary Committee, come along. What is more difficult to dismantle are pervasive protectionist norms and stigmas that are perhaps as restrictive, but more enduring.
The issue of the ban on migration for domestic work in Nepal will resurface this month to coincide with the visit of the Parliamentary Committee to West Asia to reassess it. The ban needs to be lifted, but this is also an opportune moment to address other less-explicit but enduring factors that are holding women back, both literally and figuratively.
Upasana Khadka writes this column Labour Mobility every month in Nepali Times, analysing trends affecting Nepal’s workers abroad.