Editorial: No country for the youth?
Millions of people heading abroad for employment should alarm a government worth its name.
If they do not, that is an indication that something is seriously wrong, not just with the government but with the entire state.
Facts first. Government data themselves show that about 5m people have opted for foreign employment in the course of 30 years. Many of these people land dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs, meaning death at work is pretty high. Data show that around 12,000 Nepali migrant workers have lost their lives abroad in the past 15 years alone. Despite these alarming figures, youth outmigration continues unabated. So much so, reports indicate that Nepali youths are even falling prey to non-state actors recruiting for the Ukraine war.
Perhaps the government does not bother much about this draining of the youth because it gets a huge amount in remittance every year. So much so, it seems bent on sending young professionals like nurses abroad without any regard for a public health system on sickbed. Yearly remittance figures stood at $8.11bn, $8.23bn and a whopping $9.29bn from 2020 to 2022. Who would want to lose such a sum in these hard times?
But these tall figures hide incalculable losses resulting from outmigration. Youths leaving in increasing numbers means no population dividend for a country lagging far behind in comparison to other countries in the neighborhood in terms of development and prosperity. It means tearing the very fabric of the Nepali society asunder.
This is not to mean that one should not go abroad, in this day and age of interconnectivity, for acquiring new skills, technologies, getting a good education and landing a job, etc. But the focus of the state should be on the creation of a conducive environment to bring these people back and tap their newfound technical skills, knowledge, expertise and experience for the betterment of respective families, societies and the country.
The onus to stop this drain is not on the government alone, though. In particular, people of productive age groups have a tendency to see greener pastures abroad and this is also a reason behind outmigration. These people should not forget that Nepal is a job market for millions of people from across the border. Why are the youths themselves not getting gainful employment in their own country? Is it because they constitute a cream of the cream lot for whom suitable jobs are not available in a low-tech Nepal? Is it because of a mindset that regards certain jobs available in Nepal as inferior? What is the major reason behind thousands of hectares of farmlands lying barren for years, if not this mindset?
Whatever the reason(s), stakeholders, including the government, political parties, their youth wings and community leaders should hold discussions and work out ways to stop this sapping of national energies before it’s too late.
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