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Govt throws out G2G deal with Japan to supply workers through manpowers

Govt throws out G2G deal with Japan to supply workers through manpowers

In March 2019, Nepal and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation on sending Nepali workers to Japan under the government-to-government modality. Under the deal, specified skilled workers (SSW) from Nepal would get hired in various job sectors of Japan, ranging from nursing care to manufacturing to hospitality.

But the agreement, signed by then officiating labor secretary Ram Prasad Ghimire and former Japanese ambassador Masamichi Saigo, did not make any progress of note. It took more than a year for Japan to announce 60 job openings for caregivers. Thousands of Nepali youths who had taken up Japanese language classes, one of the prerequisites for employment in Japan, were left disappointed. They had paid thousands of rupees to private institutes to learn to read and write Japanese. 

Meanwhile, educational consultancies, the so-called training centers, and foreign job employment agencies (or manpowers as they are called in Nepal) started making claims that they offer the relevant skill and language training to send workers to Japan. It was the start of the government-to-government (G2G) labor agreement getting hijacked by unscrupulous manpowers.

Now it appears that their plan has come to fruition. The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security recently came up with a new work procedure allowing manpowers to send workers to Japan. The document states that the work procedure has been introduced to make the process of sending workers to Japan more transparent, fast, and systematic. The government has essentially thrown out the G2G agreement signed with Japan and brought in privately-run manpowers. 

The government’s move also goes against the notion that G2G labor agreements could be far more transparent, safe and cost-effective for laborers. After all, Nepal has adopted South Korea’s Employment Permit System as part of the G2G deal to send Nepali workers to South Korea. 

Remittance sent by foreign job holders is a key driver of Nepal’s economy. So naturally, there are hundreds manpowers in the country. The largest share of their business comes from supplying unskilled labor forces primarily to Malaysia and the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Exploitation of Nepali workers at the hands of manpowers at home and employers in these labor destinations is no secret. It is also not unheard of that many foreign employment agencies enjoy political protection, allowing them to operate in such a manner that they make the maximum profit without a care for the safety, welfare, and rights of the workers.    

Under the new work procedure, Nepali organizations or companies which meet the standards of the SSW system and have taken permission from the ministry will be eligible to send Nepali workers to Japan. Such organizations can facilitate all the process, from conducting language and skill tests examination to sending workers to Japan.  

The document also states that the companies willing to send Nepali workers to Japan should have their training center and there should be at least two language instructors who have official certificates related to Japanese language. They  should also forge an agreement with the Registered Support Organization (RSP) of Japan which is responsible for handling specified skilled workers from foreign countries. 

RSP cannot take any fees from Nepali workers and companies. The companies  providing employment in Japan can come to Nepal to conduct the language and other tests, but there should be a prior agreement with concerned agencies.

The companies that want to take Nepali workers must issue a vacancy issuing all the details such as position, numbers and the working areas. Similarly, it should be clearly stated about the details of work, security and possible health risks it entails. The issues such as provision of social security, allowances, salary, recruitment process among others should be made transparent. 

However, there are several concerns and gaps regarding the government’s decision to hand over the responsibility of sending workers to Japan. The major one is that of transparency.  According to the ministry, those organizations who take the responsibility of sending workers should maintain a transparent way of selecting workers on merit-basis and that the ministry will oversee all the process.

This leaves a lot of wiggle room for manpowers to dictate their conduct. 

Nepali workers are going to Japan under various provisions. Even those who go under the student visas work part-time jobs there. According to the Kyodo news agency, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people from Nepal working in Japan over the past decade, owing in part to labor shortages in the service industry caused by Japan’s aging society. 

Many in the Nepali labor force, which had surged 13-fold to 120,000 nationwide in 2022, work as rafting guides, hotel employees, airport staff and other behind-the scenes workers in bustling holiday destinations. 

According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Nepalis were set to become the fifth largest group of foreign workers in 2022.