BU and Liverpool John Moores University are collaborating on a study looking into working conditions for Nepalese migrant workers, alongside two Nepalese organisations, Green Tara Nepal and POURAKHI Nepal.
POURAKHI, meaning self-reliant in Nepalese, is an organisation of women migrant workers established in 2003. It aims to ensure the rights of women migrant workers and their families in the entire process of migration. The organisation focuses its work on women migrant worker’s concerns regarding issues that arise at the different stages of migration, namely pre-employment, pre-departure, employment and post-arrival periods through support programmes.
Figures from the Department of Foreign Employment of Nepal have shown that over 176,000 Nepali women were granted labour permits to work abroad since records started in 2008, traveling mainly to the UAE, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Jordan. Since 2016, Nepalese authorities outlawed labour permits for domestic work in the Gulf, amidst reports of the abuse of Nepalese migrants working as maids in the region.
A dissemination session, held in January, looked to highlight issues within the female migrant worker minority group, at which BU’s study exploring the healthcare problems of more than 1,000 migrant returnees aged 14-51 was shared. Speaking about the study, BU’s Professor Edwin van Teijlingen stressed: “It is important the people publish their findings either positive or negative so that others can learn from it. Publishing good quality-research in Nepal ensures a wider global audience.”
Findings reflected that more than a quarter of women had experienced health problems working abroad. Fever, accidents and severe illness were commonly reported, alongside with working without breaks. It was also found that migrant women who are illiterate, had been severely maltreated or tortured in the workplace, were not being paid on time, and migrant women who had family problems at home were significantly associated with health problems in their host country in the Middle East.
Liverpool John Moores University’s Professor Padam Simkhada said: “This is one of several projects we are working on in the field of health and migration. It combines both health and human rights issues.” He added: “We often forget that working aboard offers female migrant workers an opportunity to learn new skills that are of use when returning home.”
The study concluded that raising awareness among female migrant workers can make a change in their working lives. Female migrant workers face work-related health risks, which are often related to exploitation thus recruiting agencies/employers should provide information on health risks and training for preventive measures.
The study and the subsequent dissemination session also raised questioned over Nepalese government intervention, recommending that The Government of Nepal initiate awareness campaigns about health risks, rights and health services in host countries. Concerns were also raised over the current ban on women working domestically in the Gulf region, as many Nepalese migrants defy this to travel illegally, thus encountering additional risk, with an 8.95 per cent increase in Nepalese applications to work in other industries abroad seen just a year after the restrictions were imposed.