The Brain Drain Conundrum
Text by : Abish Shakya and Abhinav Das Shrestha
The National Population Census 2011 reported nearly 2 million Nepalese people for being absent at the time of the ten-yearly census, out of which, nearly three quarters were reported to have left their home in search of employment. Among other age groups, youths made up the largest proportion (44.81) of people leaving the country for employment.
While Department of Labor and Employment reports that around 1,500 individuals leave the country for foreign employment every day, the Labor Migration for Employment ̶ Status Report for Nepal: 2014/2015, published by Ministry of Labor and Employment, reports that an average of 54 students leave Nepal each day for overseas studies, and is increasing from 33 per day to 84.
Though the data provoke thoughts, it does not surprise us.
Going abroad for studies and work; obtaining Green Card and settling in foreign lands have become occasions to celebrate among youths. They put stupendous effort to set foot in foreign lands and root themselves there; be it by unearthing a loophole or finding illegal ways to settle. Going abroad has become a part of our ethos.
The reason behind this is widely known and understood. Nepal lacks better facilities, services and resources that youths always look for. Like in abroad, work is not worth the time and effort, people are not satisfied with the rewards in Nepal, and thousands are unemployed. In Nepal, around 30 percent of economically active population ̶ 56.96 percent of the total population (those aged 15-59 years) ̶ are unemployed or underemployed, according to the report, which is stopping Nepal from becoming economically sustained.
“Countries like US, Australia, and those in the Middle East have strengthened their pull factors to allure the Nepalese by providing better facilities, services and pay scales, while in Nepal, power shortages, water problems and unemployment issues have added additional push factors,” says social entrepreneur Anil Chitrakar, “Thus, the dynamics of these two factors are causing the brain drain.”
When this situation is evident at the backdrop, experts believe that youth can have a nice future also in Nepal, and there is no need to go elsewhere to make dreams come true.
“If thought twice or thrice, people will realise that there are plenty of opportunities in each and every sector of Nepal,” says, Director at Nepal Entrepreneurs’ Hub, Suman Shakya, “Micro growth of the economy in Nepal is amazing.”
Despite the opportunities, many youths continue going abroad, and experts believe it as a good idea and a need of the country at the present.
“Settling in foreign lands is not a bad idea. Brain drain is better than brain down the drain,” says Suman Shakya, also the Managing Director of Smart Paani.
The demographic dividend of the country has been taken by the Middle East, Malaysia, Australia and the US- be it using your brains or labour. Department of Foreign Employment reported that as many as 1.2 million jobs were available in 27 countries in 2014/15. “If the Middle East stops hiring Nepalese, the economy of Nepal will have a disastrous effect,” says Anil Shah, CEO of Mega Bank. He adds, “Remittance is the backbone of the country, and nobody can go against people wishing to go abroad and have no rights to stop the pursuit of their happiness and dreams.”
This verdict is further relevant to the present situation of the country. The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report estimated that the earthquake disaster will push an additional 2.5–3.5 per cent of the country’s population into poverty in 2015/16, which translates to at least 700,000 additionally poor people.
While brain drain is believed as a must, experts believe that young people are going abroad through improper channels and approaches, though.
“Blindly believing on small talks with friends, families and relatives and following their suggestions is a wrong practice, and this pied piper syndrome may land youths in wrong places,” suggests Shakya, “People should make an analysis and research before embarking.”
Others believe the same.
Chitrakar says, “Most of the time, youth do not understand what it means to go abroad and live. Their failed assessment of the overall lifestyle will first overwhelm them but later, it will wrap them in a spiral of unconsidered events. This is a clear issue of ignorance.”
Chitrakar adds, “Nepalese set their aspirations too low. They can flourish in life only when they aspire to achieve above and beyond. As long as their aspirations are anchored by nothing more than having a decent job and salary, there is a very little room for growth for their individual career, even in the foreign lands.”
In the same tone, Shah advises, “Youths dream of only good things when planning of going abroad but when they arrive at foreign lands, they stop with different conclusions.”
Well-managed foreign employment as a policy and strategy for poverty alleviation and labour management has echoed ever since in the periodic plans. While the Tenth Plan (2002–2007) and the Three-Year Interim Plan (2007–2010) even set quantitative targets for sending 550,000 and 750,000 youths for foreign employment, an approach paper to The Thirteenth Plan (FY 2013/14 to 2015/16) has planned to provide employment-oriented skill development training to 1 Lakh youths in each of the three years of the period. Developing such plans is not enough. Creating a conducive environment to achieve it is very important.
“Conducive environment should be created for the best and brightest, and without such environment, talented people are not going to remain and prosper,” says Ujwal Thapa, Co-Founder of Entrepreneurs of Nepal.
Thapa, also the Chairperson of Bibeksheel Nepali, adds, “We are focusing on building the conducive environment or ecosystem for young entrepreneurs with brilliants minds where they can prosper, flourish and transform their ideas into action,” and reasons, “In cynical environment, people will have no motivation to start business and prosper – no matter what kind of entrepreneur you are making. They cannot sustain for long.”
Shah forecasts, “In the past, economic catastrophe had brought revolution in the country, and if we cannot secure economic prosperity under the new constitution now, we will have another revolution in the future,” and questions, “A sheikh once told me that a human being is an investment and the investment will yield dividends after years. So, If other countries will take our investment and we build their countries, who will build our country?”
Youths of today are believed to be far smarter than those in the past; thus, are adjudged as a capable population who have abilities to create an environment where thousands of people wish to return.
Shah says, “The ability of today’s youth is far better than mine ever was. Thus, I know that my nation will be far better than the yesteryears because the past were built by people like me but tomorrow will be built by people like you,” adding, “For this, we should create an environment where everyone receives equal opportunities and is rewarded based on their wit and effort; as a result of which, I am sure only few youths could consider leaving the country. Who would ever want to stay thousands of miles away from their friends, family, and culture? Home is always a home.”
To create such environment, Thapa believes in the need of good leadership. He says, “We need a good leadership who believes in meritocracy because, without this, neither people will stay nor will progress happen,” adding, “There are enough smart people here. They just need to play their parts.”
When the larger proportion of the population are either emigrating for employment or staying as unemployed, those who have identified the opportunities in Nepal should work in tandem with like-minded people to create a conducive environment, to minimise the push factors of the country and maximise opportunities. By this time, youths should analyse the situations and opportunities and stop being the victim of pied piper syndrome before embarking into the next level.
It’s all up to us, the youths, to build this country. No one else will do it for us. We believe you have what it takes to make Nepal a better place.
“In Nepal, around 30 percent of economically active population — 56.96 percent of the total population (those aged 15-59 years) — are unemployed or underemployed”