A future built by the sweat of workers overseas

Gareth Price on how remittances from Malaysia and the Gulf are helping to improve the lives of Nepal’s poor

The World Today
Published 8 June 2018 Updated 10 November 2020 3 minute READ

Dr Gareth Price

Former Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Over the past decade, about 3.5 million Nepalese have moved overseas in search of work. Massive unemployment at home, affecting up to 50 per cent of the workforce, together with a long-running civil war followed by the devastating 2015 earthquake, have made foreign shores more attractive.

The construction boom in the Gulf, particularly as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, accounts for the increased demand.

Some 500,000 Nepalese are currently working in Qatar, the second highest nationality after Indians. Qataris come third.

While the reputation of Nepal’s labourers is positive – they are good workers and are seen as diligent – news coverage of the conditions they encounter in the Gulf and Malaysia has been negative.

They face numerous hardships: middle men charge high fees to organize jobs for them overseas, they are charged for their flights and are often paid less than promised.

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