19/10/2020

Returnee women migrant labourers stare at bleak future, survey finds

Over two-third of women migrant workers have not even heard of the government’s employment generation schemes and programmes for
returnee migrants labourers, a new study says.

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Findings of the survey, released on Thursday, show that 76 percent of the women migrant workers, who were either working abroad or had
returned home, were not even informed about these schemes.
“Not only were they not aware of the government plans introduced to support returnee migrant workers,” said Pranika Koyu, who conducted
the survey, “They also didn’t trust these reintegration and rehabilitation schemes. They doubted these schemes will ever reach them and help
them during financial distress.”
The survey, conducted by WOREC and Action-Aid Nepal, was conducted among returnee women migrant workers
(https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/06/19/women-s-rights-groups-call-for-safe-dignified-repatriation-and-reintegration-ofreturnee-female-migrant-workers), those still working in labour destination countries, and family members of workers who did not return
home even during the Covid-19 pandemic
“Returnee women migrant workers have suffered a financial hit after having to return due to the pandemic. During the pre-Covid-19 time,
they were sending money to their fathers or husbands back home,” said Koyu, whose research identified the choices returnee migrant women
workers have as the country battled the pandemic with limited resources.
It looked at government’s policy and decisions around Covid-19 and how it has affected the returnee women migrant workers, including the
psychological stresses families of women who could not return face. It also aimed at identifying the impacts on their livelihood and status in
society in the wake of the pandemic.
“They didn’t have control over how the money was being spent. Those remittances were also not utilised in the productive sector,”said Koyu.
“Women migrants had been taking care of their families and bearing the burden of educational expenses of their kids. Now they are worried
about how they are going to pay for the education and health services for their family members.”

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The study, based on in-depth interviews with 30 women migrant workers— five of them still abroad and 25 returnees who returned as early as
one year before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and as late as June 2020 under the government’s repatriation programme— found
out that only 14 percent of the women migrants had heard about government-run employment programmes. But even they didn’t understand
the details of such programmes.
Nearly, 10 percent had heard about the Prime Minister Employment Programme—the temporary employment scheme that aims to provide a
minimum 100-days of employment to unemployed citizens.
The survey findings showed that the financial situation of the returnee migrant workers in Nepal and women migrant workers abroad was
different.
Returnee migrant workers had little or no savings of their own to see them through uncertain times. The returnees needed Rs10,000-15,000
per month to cover their household expenses, including their children’s education. They also required money for continued medical treatment
of their sick parents-in-law.
While returnees women workers were desperate to earn to take care of their family expenses, those still abroad did not mind being underpaid
during the difficult times of the pandemic.
Until March, 60 percent of women migrant workers had received their salary as per their work contract. Wage theft among migrant workers
(https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/07/04/jobless-and-without-pay-migrant-workers-are-returning-home-but-they-have-norecourse-for-compensation) has been rampant even before the pandemic. But this time around, women migrant workers, who were being paid
only half of their wage, were hopeful that their company would pay them later.
“Some of them were happy that the company was still paying them. They were not dissatisfied that they were not paid. They said it was a
difficult time for all, so they were not paid,” said Koyu.

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