Insights and Analysis

New Study Examines Labor Migration Impact on Social, Political Dynamics in Nepal

March 22, 2017

Over the past decade, Nepal has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of migrant laborers leaving the country to work abroad, and the majority are youth. This phenomenon has led to the exodus of a significant proportion of the country’s working-age population, with the remittances that they send back home making up nearly a third of the country’s GDP and credited for the significant reduction in poverty rates.

Nepal migrant laborers

Over the past decade, Nepal has seen a ten-fold increase in the number of migrant laborers leaving the country to work abroad. Here, young laborers prepare to depart Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Photo/Conor Ashleigh

Despite the continual rise in the number of people migrating for foreign employment and the growing body of research on Nepal’s remittance economy, there is a dearth of knowledge of the impact foreign labor migration has on the social and political dynamics at the local level. To fill this gap, The Asia Foundation just released a new study, “Labour Migration and the Remittance Economy,” that examines the implications of migration and remittance on social structures, including local institutions and democratic governance, and on political participation and political contestation.

Fieldwork for the study was carried out in 10 locations in five districts—Panchthar, Dhanusha, Nawalparasi, Kaski, and Kailali—between April and June 2016, and surveyed 401 migrant and non-migrant households (HHs) during the first stage of the study, followed by 179 qualitative interviews and 19 focus group discussions in the second stage.

The report is divided into six sections, with the introductory section describing the methodological approach and the research framework adopted for the study. Section two presents findings on the socioeconomic effects of migration and remittances, primarily at the household level. Section three focuses on how the changes observed at the household level may affect established societal relations, and lead to shifts in the political autonomy of migrants and their households. Section four examines the impact of migration on the political aspirations of young people and the emerging patterns of political participation among various migrant and non-migrant populations. Section five analyses the implications of migration on gender roles and women’s political participation. Section six concludes with the possible implications of the ongoing trajectories of migration on the broader socio-political transformations underway in Nepal.

Looking ahead, the study points to areas that could be further explored in order to advance the positive impacts that migration can have on the country, including engaging with youth to understand their migration aspirations, preparing for a fundamental shift in the nature and composition of the Nepali labor market in the future, further supporting changes in social relations and greater political autonomy of marginalized groups, and greater engagement in “economic development” instead of party politics.

The study was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and conducted in partnership with the Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM) at Social Science Baha.

Download the full report here.

Related locations: Nepal
Related programs: Inclusive Economic Growth
Related topics: Labor Migration


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