Better social security attracts more FDI: Bista
Unemployment has become a major challenge for the country. It lacks job opportunities at home while youth are facing many problems as they fly overseas in search of jobs. The government is effortful to create job opportunities in the country and make the foreign jobs more secured and dignified by signing labour agreements with labour destination countries.
As about 75 per cent Nepali migrant workers are unskilled, they are underpaid, and are compelled to do risky and low-standards jobs. Lately, the government has launched various schemes and programmes to make the youths self-employed and enhance their skills and capacity as per the demand of domestic and international labour markets. In this backdrop, Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista expressed his views and plans of the ministry with the journalists at a roundtable discussion ‘Gorkhapatra Sambad’ organised by the Gorkhapatra Corporation on Sunday. Excerpts:
The government has signed labour agreements with different countries. It shows that the government is focusing on foreign employment rather than trying to create jobs within the country. What is your view on this?
– You have asked very relevant question. Here in Nepal, there is an interesting situation. On the one hand, we have to pay due attention to maximise the utilisation of domestic resources for the country’s development. Nepal is still at the preliminary stage of development. It is necessary to develop infrastructure in various sectors for the country’s development. For this, a large volume of human resources is required. We have to expand the domestic labour market and maximise the utilisation of the possible sectors of employment.Nepal’s labour market is not getting workers as per its needs on other hand. And Nepali workers are compelled to go abroad for jobs. It is a paradox.
The government has made a plan to utilise the domestic human resources with priority by developing their skills and enhancing their capacity. For the first time, we have become employment centric. The policies and programmes of the government have given priority for job creation inside the country. The government has been moving with a vision to create additional jobs through the Prime Minister Employment Programmes that has already come into effect. The Employment Act, Employment Regulation and Employment Working Procedures have already been approved. The Employment Information Centre has been established in all 753 local levels and employment coordinators have been in those centres. The process to collect the data of unemployed persons in all local levels is going on. It will support to identify the numbers of unemployed youth, types of unemployment youth and provide at least 100 days’ employment to the unemployed people.
We are moving ahead with a plan to identify the employment opportunities, forecast the needs of employment in the next five years. We are trying to link the local labourers in the local market and create an environment where they can work with self-dignity.
Having said this, we have to manage the destination of foreign jobs by signing agreements with the the destination countries. We have to make foreign employment sector more secured, managed, dignified and transparent until the situation to go abroad for employment exists in the country. The government had signed labour agreements and is also amending existing agreements signed with the labour destinations. The government want that there should not be a situation in which the migrant Nepali workers do not suffer any problem in the absence of government support.
Here is a practical problem that skilled and capable youth want to fly overseas to find jobs. Development in the country will be difficult in the absence of the skilled human resources. What the government is doing to discourage this tendency?
– Sure, it is necessary to link youth with employment and work. We have to focus on increasing productivity of youth. We have to pay due attention to make unemployed youth more skilled and capable. We should link them with either work or employment. Around 1.5 per cent of our migrant workers are skilled, around 23.3 per cent are semi-skilled and around 75 per cent are unskilled. Therefore, our effort should be to develop skilled human resources no matter whether they go overseas as migrant workers or work staying home. If the youth go overseas with required skills, they will get good salaries, allowance and other facilities and face no risks. They will earn more. Due to lack of skilled human resources available in the country, a large number of foreigners are arriving in Nepal searching for jobs.
Technology is a must to enhance skill and capacity of the workers. For this, we have to intervene in the education sector as well but this sector falls under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. How would you provide technical education to workers?
– When the government is working to produce skilled and capable human resources, the Ministry of Education and other concerned bodies under the Ministry of Education should play a role to produce technical manpower. To manage the short-term training and produce academic and technical manpower, the Cabinet has also formed a committee, including four ministers—Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Ministry of Education and Science and Technology and Ministry of Finance to coordinate for producing the skilled human resources in the country.
Likewise, under the policies and programmes, the government has announced to establish at least one technical school in each local level. It will help produce skilled manpower as per the country’s need.
On the one hand, we have to produce skilled human resources, and we have to enhance the productivity of employees on the other. Increasing productivity only through skilled manpower is not possible. We are trying to link the skilled manpower and productivity. Skill and Training Centre under the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security is exercising on this. We are preparing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the industrial institutions to provide jobs to youth after providing training to them. We are creating some hundred thousands jobs shortly. This is a completely new step in employment creation to guarantee job opportunities after training. It will take 10 to 15 days to ink the MoU. We are also focusing to make youth self-employed by providing practical training.
The policies and programmes of the government have given priority for job creation inside the country.
We are trying to link the skilled manpower and productivity.
There are two parts associated with job creation. One is that jobs can be created in the sector where government projects are in operation. The next part is private sector which will create employment in abundance.
Even for foreign direct investment (FDI), the part of social security is consciously observed.
As of today, more than 60,000 youths have become self-employed under the programme that was introduced a decade ago, what is the government plan to create self-employment in the days ahead?
– There are two parts associated with job creation. One is that jobs can be created in the sector where government projects are in operation. The next part is private sector which will create employment in abundance. The cooperative sector will also create employment for a large number of people. Agriculture, industry, forest, education, health and information technology, physical infrastructure, urban development are other sectors where we can create additional jobs with the mutual cooperation among the government, private sector and cooperatives.
Information Technology sector is another potential sector to create jobs. A task force formed incorporating the IT specialist eight months ago showed that around 85,000 to 125,000 people will get job in the sector if the government makes simple reforms in the IT sector. We can make people self-employed in micro, cottage, industries including handicraft, garment and leather shoes, among others.
Nepal Investment Summit has just concluded. How fruitful the Summit will be to generate job opportunities?
– Definitely, different donor agencies and foreign investors have committed to invest in large amount in Nepal. And MoUs have been signed for a few projects, including hydropower. There is possibility to create thousands of jobs in the country after the agreement came into effect. For this, we have to develop skilled manpower as required by the development projects. We have to identify that why Nepali workers are not interested to work in their homeland. At present, the hydropower and other industrial sectors are saying that they are facing shortage of workers, but many people here are still unemployed.
Still many female domestic labourers have been facing violence from their landlords, especially in gulf countries, what initiation the government has been taking to resolve this?
– At first, the Ministry is not allowing any Nepali woman to go overseas as domestic labour after the suggestions made by a parliamentary committee. And by concerning the demand of some labourers, who want to return to same country, we have submitted a proposal to the parliamentary committee. It is in the discussion process in the committee. If the committee approves the proposal, we will also allow them to return to the country where they were working if they feel safe and secured there.
Compulsion of social security for the workers has increased operational cost and this is said to be a reason for the downfall in its rank of doing business. Together with this, it is assumed that the act also discouraged the foreign investors. Is it so?
– Yes, in short term, cost increases somehow, but the act is for long-term benefit of the workers. Social Security Act ensures stability of workforce and helps the business flourish on its way. This attracts the investors which is why the private sectors here welcomed the act enthusiastically.
We had several rounds meeting with private sector and leaders of trade unions before we drafted the bill. Both the parties (Labour Unions and Private Sector) are convinced with the Labour Act and the programme of Social Security. I don’t think the act can be the reason to downfall of the rank.
Even for foreign direct investment (FDI), the part of social security is consciously observed. Economy moves on its track if the nations respect labour and provide security to them. Foreign investors keenly watch on labour policy before they invest. Enrolment of social security for the worker ensures investment safety. FDI will be attracted with this policy reforms.
When will Nepali migrant workers start to go to Japan and Malaysia? Will you share something about MOUs signed with Japan and Malaysia?
– Equal wages for Japanese and Nepali workers are ensured. It was also confirmed that the wages would be paid through banking system to make the dealings more transparent and ensure social security of the labours. According to the agreement reached with Japan, Japan could now take skilful Nepali workers in various 14 sectors there. I would like to request all the readers of The Rising Nepal to keep patience; more good news is in pipeline.
For now, the government has a compulsion to export trained work force at various labour destinations. But we have clear priority for creating domestic jobs as well. The process of international employment was haphazard previously. The workers had to suffer with double dealings, cheating and others in each step. Reforms have already begun in the labour market.
The government is focusing on skill development and labour safety. We are offering trainings to strengthen the ability of our workers and MoUs are being signed. Once the compulsion ends, Nepali youth will be guaranteed jobs and securities at their own nation.
Earlier, you committed a campaign to show respect to the domestic workers. Where has the campaign reached?
– Efforts are underway to make the work more respectful than we have now. Entrepreneurship development, job security and productivity increasing programmes have been going on. For the campaign, model workers are selected. They will share their success stories to others.