The Invisible Money Makers

Guest Post by Trisnha Rana, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Nepal

What binds South Asian economies? Foreign remittances. Without migrant labourers and the money they send back home, countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka would fall apart. While creating more jobs domestically is the obvious answer to curtailing this massive brain and labour drain, the bigger question is: what are governments doing at the moment to ensure the safety of the millions of South Asians specially low-skill workers toiling in the Middle East, South East Asia and other parts of the world.
Nothing much really. The predicament of labourers is so poor that none of the eight SAARC countries even have accurate data about how many of their citizens are living abroad as Professor Irudaya Rajan, who chairs the research unit on international migration at the Centre for Development Studies in Chennai, reminded us. The issue is not just about the lack of a databases though. Governments seem to be using foreign as a solution to unemployment problems and to prevent dissatisfactions from spiraling into instability. But they have completely washed their hands off the responsibility towards the citizens and failed to include this huge demographic in their development policies. These are the invisible men and women of our countries who sustain our economy but get nothing in return. In fact the cumbersome, bureaucratic process that they are made to undergo to for work permits and the complete absence of a safety net only gives out a message to the workers that they don’t matter.

A topic that the speakers touched upon that should be an absolute priority for governments if they are to sustain this source of employment is for the eight countries in the region to band together to build migrant policies together: a common South Asian front to present to the rest of the world. But even before we tackle the outside world, migration policies need to begin at home. With so much shared history it is absurd that we use the most restrictive and harmful migration policies for citizens of neighbouring countries. This no doubt needs immediate revision.