Government pushes Qatar to set a minimum wage for 400,000 migrant workers and cut out private labour agencies
The government of Nepal has set out a raft of measures to prevent its citizens from being exploited when they work abroad, with particular emphasis on regulating the conduct of labour agencies that recruit workers for construction sites in the Gulf states.
Suresh Man Shrestha, secretary for labour at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, told Gulf Times that his government had stepped up its efforts to prosecute unscrupulous labour suppliers.
“The government can cancel the licence of recruiters who charge high service fees. Violators can be imprisoned for two years. In addition, they are liable to pay a fine of up to NR100,000 [$1,000],” he said.
One source of concern is the ability of Napalese workers to survive the harsh and unfamiliar conditions on a Gulf construction site. In Qatar, where about 400,000 Nepalese have migrated, workers died at the rate of two a day throughout 2014, it was revealed at the end of last year.
It is compulsory for workers to have a medical check-up before they travel, but agencies frequently omit this procedure. Mr Shrestha said: “Another issue is that many recruitment companies are submitting fake medical certificates. There are 203 medical centres approved by the government of Nepal. But most of them do not have enough facilities for medical check-ups. Qatar does not have approved medical centres in Nepal. Government officials make frequent raids to stop illegal recruitment and they are fruitful to a great extent.”
Mr Shrestha aid that Qatar officials should hold regular meetings with the Nepali embassy to understand the workers’ problems. He also suggested cutting out the role of the middle men who are widely blamed for much of the exploitation. “If direct recruitment takes place, most of the problems can be avoided. At least 50% government recruitment and 50% private recruitment will solve the problems. We have set up direct recruitment through government channels to Korea and Israel. This has solved most of the problems there.”