Migration corridor

Nepal Qatar

With remittances making up almost a third of its GDP, Nepal is one of the largest remittance recipient countries in the world. High levels of poverty, unemployment, and natural disasters have led to nearly one in ten Nepalis seeking work abroad. The government used to set targets with a view to increasing the number of Nepalis travelling abroad, but the focus in the past decade has shifted somewhat towards retaining Nepalis, creating jobs in the country and more priority has been given to ensuring that those who migrate do so in a safe and dignified manner.

Nepal Qatar migration corridor

The numbers

  • Metric nepal qatar 01 Percentage of Nepal’s GDP from overseas workers 28 percent
  • Metric nepal qatar 02 Vast majority of Nepalis migrating through official channels are men 91.3 percent
  • Metric nepal qatar 03 Average monthly population increase of Qatar between 2008 and 2021 7,500

This reflects an increased global focus on human rights in the migration process and a growing sensitivity among the Nepali public to the treatment of their compatriots abroad. However regulation of the influential recruitment industry, which maintains close relationships with political parties, is a major challenge, given the rampant abuse of migrant workers and the intense competition - between recruiters and with other origin states - for jobs in wealthy destination countries. On top of these challenges international bodies have criticised the lack of coordination between the numerous ministries and committees managing migration policy, exacerbated by political instability, frequent changes in government and a high turn-over of labour ministers over the past decade.

The Arab Gulf states, and in particular Qatar, are a major destination for Nepalis. In 2017/2018, Qatar hosted 29% of all Nepali workers migrating to countries other than India, with workers in Qatar sending home US$870m in remittances. Qatar has among the world’s highest GDP per capita, and migrant workers outnumber nationals in Qatar by nine to one, attracted by opportunities for work created by a 20-year construction boom. While viewed as an economic necessity, this population imbalance is also seen by the government as a potential threat to a Qatari “national identity”, and policies are designed to maintain the temporary basis upon which most of its low-income, overwhelmingly male, migrant workforce is recruited and prevent them from settling and obtaining citizenship. Qatar came under intense international pressure over the treatment of migrant workers, particularly those from Nepal, after it won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. In 2017, it embarked on a cooperation programme with the ILO and has subsequently undertaken a series of reforms.

Priority recommendations to strengthen efforts to ensure fair recruitment

The Nepal authorities should:

  • Fully prohibit the payment of fees and related costs, in line with the ILO definition, by migrant workers to recruitment agencies.
  • Pending the adoption of a zero-cost migration model, fully enforce penalties against recruitment agencies charging fees above the legal limit, in accordance with relevant provisions of the FEA.
  • Increase resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting corruption in the Department of Foreign Employment
  • Ensure that all migrant workers, regardless of their job, gender, or whether they migrated through regular channels, have full access to consular assistance in destination countries and grievance mechanisms in Nepal.
  • Strengthen the capacity of diplomatic missions in Qatar and Kuwait to support migrant workers facing exploitation and other abuses in seeking redress including by providing legal advice and representation; ensure that missions are adequately resourced to carry out thorough checks on prospective employers as part of the “demand letter” attestation process.
  • Provide specialized pre-departure training for domestic workers and institute regular phone checkin procedures for domestic workers with Nepali consulates in Gulf states

The Qatar authorities should:

  • Significantly increase the pressure on employers to ensure the safety and dignity of migrant workers during the recruitment process, including by:
    • Amending the Labour Law to hold employers responsible for the actions of third party intermediaries, including outside Qatar;
    • Strengthening the capacity of the labour inspectorate to identify cases of recruitment-related abuse, and requiring that employers provide evidence that they have paid for the costs of workers’ recruitment;
    • Undertaking proactive investigations (and where there is sufficient evidence, criminal prosecutions) into corrupt recruitment practices on the part of employers and recruiters, including the payment of “kickbacks”, and human trafficking;
    • Incentivising ethical recruitment by requiring companies to budget transparently for recruitment costs, including in their contracting chains, in public procurement bidding processes;
    • Using the Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs) to identify and log cases of illegal recruitment fees and share information with Qatari investigatory bodies; work closely with the Nepali authorities to prevent contract substitution through the QVCs and sanction agencies charging illegal recruitment fees.
  • Consider the introduction of special licensing requirements for “labour supply companies”, given the high risk workers employed by such firms can be exposed to, and their close involvement in the recruitment process.
  • Institute labour inspections of private residences hiring domestic workers - including unannounced visits.
  • Ensure that the 2020 reform allowing workers to move jobs without the permission of their employers is implemented effectively, that workers have simple procedures to change jobs, and that they are fully protected from retaliation. Remove the criminal charge of “absconding”.
  • Significantly reduce the average time taken to issue rulings at Labour Dispute Resolution Committees. Consider legislative changes to allow for collective complaints, when large number of workers make complaints. Where employers cannot or will not comply with court judgements, ensure that the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund (WSIF) disburses money owed to workers in a timely manner.
Policy summaries of Nepal - Qatar