Challenges of Returnee Migrant Workers in Karnali Province

Written by: Dinesh Gautam

Published On: September 17, 2020

Thousands of youths in foreign employment have returned back to Karnali after losing their jobs abroad. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law in Karnali Province, fifty-four thousand people have returned to Karnali just from India. Now, the common challenge facing them all is unemployment. The federal, provincial and local governments have promised to give employment generation a high priority in the budget and activities planning of the ongoing fiscal year. Although a month has passed since the beginning of the current fiscal year, no concrete employment program has been launched.

In the current Coronavirus pandemic, people have not only lost their jobs at foreign destinations but also their employment within the country.  Karnali Province Labor and Employment Office has stated that it is working to collect the data of those who have lost their employment both internally and externally. About two percent of the people in Karnali who tried to return to foreign employment has not been able to go abroad due to the impact of Coronavirus and the lockdown. Most of the workers in transport, hotels, restaurants and construction have lost their jobs and have been unemployed for a long time.

According to the last census, the total population of Karnali Province is 1.7 million but it has now reached 1.8 million at present. About 50 percent of people go to India for employment from Karnali and only a small number go to other countries. Now, a large number of people, who were working in India, have become unemployed. The Karnali province government has planned this year’s budget prioritizing agriculture, production and employment. The provincial government has allocated Rs. 6.54 billion in the current fiscal year to create employment through different projects. The government aims to provide immediate employment through programs including the Chief Minister’s Employment Program.

The provincial government is planning to encourage labor employment, interest subsidy and concessional loans to farmers and youths in the current fiscal year, but the work has not started yet. Moreover, the plan of the provincial government to create employment for the returnees at home may not be successful as a large amount of budget is being spent on the prevention and response of corona. In addition to this, industry and other economic and social indicators of Karnali province are also unsatisfactory. Karnali is estimated to contribute only 4.3 percent to the country’s GDP in the current fiscal year. So far, only 72 industries have been registered in Karnali. According to a recent economic survey, there are about 130,000 unemployed people in the province, while 54,000 people have entered Karnali due to COVID.

Lastly, 51 percent of the population is below the poverty line in Karnali Province and this percentage is only to increase due to the crisis created by COVID.  People who have gone for employment in India and third countries have also seen a decline in their income and some have lost their jobs. In this situation, there is no alternative but to create an environment of entrepreneurship and motivate the returnees from foreign employment to stay and work in the country.