Exploitation risk for migrant women workers increased during the pandemic: Labor Migration Experts and Rights Activists. They have urged the government to protect vulnerable women migrant workers and ensure their wages and other legal rights.

11th July 2020, Kathmandu At a time when tens of thousands of Nepali migrant workers are bearing the effects of the Covid- 19 pandemic in various labor destination countries, it is the women workers who are having it worse, according to labor migration experts and human rights workers.

They say women workers are facing hardship from various fronts in the wake of the pandemic further aggravating their seemingly never-ending struggle as migrant workers and putting them at higher risk of exploitation.

“Nepali women migrant workers have been bearing the most brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ashok Rana, chairperson of National Network for Safe Migration, an umbrella organization of civil society groups working in the field of labor migration, said during an interaction in Kathmandu on Saturday.

“In labor destination countries, women workers have been dealing with the risk of contracting Coronavirus as well as various forms of exploitations. Even for those women who have returned home, they neither have safe quarantine space nor the guarantee of a secure future.”

The situation of migrant women workers, most of whom work as housewives in the Persian Gulf and have been subjected to various forms of exploitation by sub-agents at home and their employers, has worsened further during the pandemic.

“We know a majority of Nepali women migrant workers are working as housemaids in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Their conditions may be different in different countries but they are at risk,” said Sudip Pathak, a member of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

“As labour destination countries imposed lockdowns and other measures to contain the Coronavirus spread, women migrant workers were burdened with more work and extended working hours as their employers stayed home. They also underwent psychological pressure.”

According to the latest assessment of ‘Covid-19 and the World of Work’ by the International Labor Organization, women workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, creating a risk that some of the modest progress made in recent decades on gender equality will be lost and that work-related gender inequalities will be exacerbated.

The ILO pointed out that the serious impact of the pandemic on women workers is due to their over-representation in some of the economic sectors most affected by the crisis, such as housing , food, sales and manufacturing.

“Women also dominate in the domestic work and health and social care work sectors, where they are at greater risk of losing their income and of infection and transmission and are also less likely to have social protection,” said the ILO assessment, which was released on Tuesday.

“The pre- pandemic unequal distribution of unpaid care work has also worsened during the crisis, exacerbated by the closure of schools and care services.” After the pandemic hit major labor destination countries for Nepalese workers, the country’s labor migration sector has been halted.

Many workers have suffered job losses and pay cuts. There was also fear of infection due to unsafe working conditions and living conditions. After being stranded for months, Nepalese workers are currently evacuated from these countries. On Saturday’s interaction, stakeholders urged the government to analyze the difference between the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic situation and address the new challenges faced by migrant workers.

They also said the government needs to find out the actual number of women workers losing jobs so that they could be brought home and reintegrated.

“A large number of Nepali women workers are in Kuwait where at least three of them have committed suicide after being infected with the Coronavirus,” said Hari Krishna Neupane, a Kuwait-based Nepali journalist.

“Four Nepali migrant workers have died due to Covid-19. But the government has not shown enough concerns other than taking them back on chartered flights, which are several times expensive.”
Source: The Kathmandu Post

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