Remittance earnings boost villages — usually

A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.
A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.

The remittances that migrant labourers send back to their countries contribute massively to those economies, but the impact on poverty reduction is much more complex, as a new book by Ramesh Sunam details

This article was published in Nepali Times on 15 September 2020.

As you might expect, the remittance village is punctuated by smooth, concrete houses rising among their weary-looking brick, mud and bamboo neighbours, a settlement where shiny motorcycles whine back and forth.

 But in the remittance village you will also find residents who cannot even afford the price of a flight ticket to join the growing queue of fellow villagers trooping overseas to earn. It is also a place where going to work abroad actually drives some households into poverty instead of lifting them out of it. 

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Nepal’s labour migration trap

Malaysia-bound migrant workers at a Kathmandu-based facility, where their passports and fingerprints are scanned for Immigration and Security Clearance. ©Nepali Times

Experiences from other Asian countries show that people who have gone abroad to work can be reintegrated into the economies of their home countries but it’s a complex process that requires government leadership.

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Nepali migrants are building Kathmandu

Rocking_baby_SMConstruction is happening everywhere in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Within a square kilometre of where I live there must be dozens of projects going up, mostly houses but also hotels, and other projects.

The work, such as mixing cement and hammering nails, is almost all done by hand, and the workers are not equipped with special clothing or safety gear. Passing many sites it’s obvious that the workforce lives on-site, sometimes in tents but, as I discovered writing and filming this article, sometimes in the cement shells of the buildings themselves.

Most of the workers are from other parts of Nepal, and neighbouring India. In Hotel Kutumba, where I spent some time, there were groups of 4 or 5 from various districts. Read the full article on the Nepali Times website or watch the video below: