APR 10 – Earlier this week, Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al-Khulaifi, the Qatari Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and his team came to Kathmandu to talk about the labour issues between Nepal and Qatar. Minister Al-Khulaifi was feted and offered high praise by many high-ranking Nepali officials. Among the many labour-trade issues talked about during the bilateral meeting was what is known as “Zero-Cost Migration.”
Zero-Cost Migration essentially means that workers in labour-providing countries who seek jobs abroad do not have to pay a fee to ensure that they are hired by companies in labour-importing countries. But Nepali workers today pay anywhere from Rs 70,000 to 100,000 to be guaranteed work in Qatar.
During the press conference after the meeting, Minister of Labour and Employment Tek Bahadur Gurung talked about many things but didn’t say why Nepalis had to pay so much to find work at a Zero-Cost Migration destination like Qatar.
“The government does not punish the unscrupulous recruiting agencies, nor has our ministry scrapped the provision that asks outbound workers to pay Rs 70,000, in recruiting charge, to go to Qatar or why the workers have to pay Rs 20,000 to agents as service charge even when the employers are supposed to bear that expense,” says Ganesh Gurung, a foreign employment expert.
The two governments have vowed to rein in the dishonest agencies to make Zero-Cost Migration to Qatar a reality. That, however, looks like an uphill task, given how the recruiting agencies both in the labour-sending countries and Qatar have been calling the shots, instead of the governments. What looks even more difficult to remedy are the problems inherent in the workings of the layers of authorised and unscrupulous agencies and agents.