October 30, Kathmandu. Due to the Corona epidemic, the door for Nepalis to go to Malaysia for employment has been closed for 20 consecutive months. At the request of the company, except for a limited number of workers who got special permission from the Malaysian government’s immigration, other Nepalis have not been able to go to Malaysia for employment. Once a major destination for Nepali workers, Malaysia has now become a ‘closed’ destination.
Although the Gulf countries have started taking workers in full or in part, many workers have been affected by the closure of Malaysia. Due to this policy of Malaysia, some workers have not been able to return from Malaysia.
According to former ambassador Uday Raj Pandey, who recently returned from the Nepali embassy in Malaysia, there were around 700,000 Nepali workers (legal and illegal) working in Malaysia as of 2015. But now Pandey estimates that number has dropped to around 200,000.
According to him, the workers have not been able to go to Malaysia due to the policy taken by the Malaysian government to control the epidemic. He says that now that the epidemic has subsided, it will not take long for Malaysia to open up.
Even before the epidemic, Malaysia’s employment was in jeopardy. The government of Nepal had stopped sending workers from 12 June, 2075, saying that the syndicate imposed on workers going to Malaysia for employment in the name of medical, visa facilitation, VLN, biometrics and other additional charges should end. After the then Labor Minister Gokarna Bista launched a campaign against the swindlers and stopped the work permit, the Malaysian government came to a dialogue for a labor agreement.
On the basis of that, a labor agreement was reached with the Malaysian government on 11 November 2075 so that not a single rupee would have to be paid for going to Malaysia and all the fees would be borne by the employer. But if Malaysia wanted to move forward the visa process of new workers through the old vendor, Nepal did not agree to it. Manpower entrepreneurs had increased the pressure on the government after the MoU was not signed for 10 months.
Only 15 months after the closure of the labor permit, only on September 29, 2076, the workers going to Malaysia started getting the labor permit. However, about 55,000 Nepalis could not reach Malaysia, the epidemic of Corona started and again the door of employment in Malaysia was closed.
The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security says that it is not yet certain when Malaysia will open employment for Nepali workers. “So far, no decision has been taken to hire foreign workers for employment in Malaysia,” said Danduraj Ghimire, a spokesman for the ministry. Spokesperson Ghimire informed that the Nepali Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is taking diplomatic initiative to allow Nepalis to enter Malaysia.
‘May open from January’
Former Ambassador Pandey says Malaysia will soon be open to foreign workers. “Malaysian employers have increased pressure on the government to open up, saying that labor shortages could affect the economy,” Pandey said.
According to him, there is a shortage of workers in the areas where there is a demand for Nepali workers in Malaysia. This is also the reason why Malaysia cannot stay without foreign workers for a long time now.
“Probably, foreign workers will be able to go to Malaysia from January,” he estimated. “If it is open, about 200,000 Nepalis will be able to go to Malaysia within a year.”
Only Malaysian citizens and Nepali citizens can work as security guards in Malaysia. However, Pandey said that there was a shortage of workers in the security sector as many workers returned to Nepal after their contracts expired. “There is a monopoly of Nepali workers in the security guards,” he said. “That is why Malaysia must open employment sooner or later.”
Former Ambassador Pandey says that now that employment has opened in Malaysia, an environment should be created so that workers are not cheated. He says that its implementation has been challenging as there is a labor agreement to take workers from Nepal to Malaysia at zero cost.
He is of the view that the government should closely monitor the implementation of the arrangement that the employer company will bear all the expenses of the process of taking the workers to Malaysia. “It is better to provide employment to our citizens within the country as much as possible,” he says.
According to the agreement with Malaysia, the company will reimburse the medical expenses at the time of first month’s salary. However, Pandey said that the stakeholders should be vigilant as its implementation could be weak.