International migration, particularly short-term employment to the Middle East and Malaysia, is an important part of Nepal’s economy with remittances equivalent to 26-27 per cent of the GDP. Despite the significance of migration, migrants are still subject to numerous vulnerabilities at the pre-departure, on-site and return stages. For example, recruitment costs are high, contract substitution where migrants are faced with less favorable terms of employment (salary, overtime provisions) than what they were originally promised is common, and passport confiscation by employers is rampant. With over 1200 active recruitment companies facilitating migration and over 300-500 thousand Nepalese migrating annually, overseas foreign employment management can be a challenge. To increase transparency and efficiency in the international migration process, FEIMS brings all players to the same platform which eases monitoring of stakeholders and ensures high accountability and strong record-keeping.
Towards a solution
The FEIMS has vastly improved the process of collection and reporting of migration related data while increasing the accountability of different stakeholders involved in the recruitment process. It has brought to its platform various government agencies like the Department of Foreign Employment, Department of Passport, Department of Immigration, Department of Consular Services, recruiting agencies, medical examination institutions, pre-departure orientation training providers, insurance companies, and select banks. This one-stop portal helps address some key issues along the migration cycle:
- Pre-departure:Attestation of labor demand by foreign employers at Nepali diplomatic missions ensures that aspirants have access to authentic job demand information. The biometric information collected at orientation centers linked to FEIMS ensures full attendance in the pre-departure training.
- During Migration:Migrants are also subject to contract substitution and high recruitment costs which are financed by high-interest loans. The FEIMS can help address such weaknesses by increased transparency and accountability and ensures that no third-party service provider engages in fraudulent activities whether it is the intermediary, the insurance and medical companies or training institutes. The FEIMS features complaints and grievance management mechanism that ensures timely address to the migrants’ concerns. Furthermore, by ensuring that all migrants are registered in the portal, diplomatic missions have access to information of all current migrants which eases the process of providing services both individually as well as en masse during idiosyncratic as well as covariate shocks respectively. FEIMS also helps in blacklisting recruitment agencies and employers who engage in actions that harm the welfare of migrants.
- Return:For the first time in Nepal’s migration history, integration of the Immigration Department database to the FEIMS has allowed data of returnees to be recorded. Given that returnee reintegration is a rising public policy concern, FEIMS greatly eases the process. For example, FEIMS collects migrant related data which can be further used in domestic employment within Nepal such as by allowing local employers to search for experienced employees or by providing loans or incentive packages to deserving migrants based on their labor approval records. FEIMS also facilitates emergency support to stranded migrants, and in case of deaths and missing migrants, can engage with authentic points of contact for coordinated rescue efforts and compensation provision.
Overall migration governance and policymaking will also be greatly improved by this information management system. By facilitating easy, timely and current disaggregated data collection, it will greatly facilitate evidence-based policymaking. In line with the SDG goals of “leaving no one behind”, the FEIMS can help with SDG monitoring in Nepal, by providing current and accurate statistics on out-migrants from Nepal.
There is also a scope to expand the use of FEIMS. In a federal structure where migration services will be decentralized, the FEIMS can be instrumental in facilitating the process by on boarding all relevant decentralized bodies to the system. Similarly, a companion mobile phone application has been built to further facilitate migrants’ and aspirants’ access to information and to allow them to track their application and grievance redress processes. There is also a plan to highlight the FEIMS in common platforms such as the Colombo Process, a consultative forum of 12 labor sending countries in Asia, as an innovative practice in foreign employment management so that features of the system can be replicated. It is replicable not just by other countries to manage their migration governance but also includes features on grievance mechanisms, employer/employee registration, and job-search that can be utilized in other contexts such as domestic labor management.
Countries/ territories involved: Nepal
Implementing entities: Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Nepal
Supported by: Government of Nepal
Project status: On-going
Project period: 2016-Present
URL to the project: https://feims.dofe.gov.np/sf/sfLogin.aspx
Ram Prasad Ghimire
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security