The immeasurable cost of brain drain in Nepal and possible measures to mitigate them

brain drain graphic
Graphical representation. Photo: Pexels/ Nadezhda Moryak:

Nepalis have been frequently hearing the news that its cities and villages are being emptied by youth emigration. They leave behind the elderly and children, in the hope of a better future. This has become a problem as most of them permanently settle in a foreign country instead of returning and taking care of their people and place. This indicates a situation of rapid brain drain from the country as most of the educated ones are willing to stay in foreign countries leaving behind a question: Is this a curse for the country or we should take it as king’s ransom? Nor does anyone know the cost of this trend.

Brain drain: Causes and consequences

Nepal has been facing the problem of a lack of employment opportunities, which is why Nepali young people are willing to go abroad in search of better employment opportunities, personal growth, high-quality accommodation or globalisation and search for advanced technology.

For a developing country like Nepal, unemployment has become the major cause of emigration. According to a report, the net migration rate in 2022 is 4.353 per 1,000 population, which is a 19.72 per cent increase from 2021.

Most of the migrants concur on the fact there is a vast wage difference for the same profession in Nepal and abroad. The person with a certain level of qualification working in Nepal and the person with the same qualification working abroad have a huge earning gap. Both invest similar time and money to achieve higher education, but it is not the same for both when it comes to earning, job opportunities and living standards.

It is obvious that people begin to compare and then seek to match the same level of earning. This education-job-wage mismatch ultimately results in brain drain.

Brain drain is when competent human resources leave their home country believing their human capital gets appreciated and expect better returns. Looking at the drastic increment in the trend of the past 10 years of foreign employment in Nepal and students taking NOCs (no objection certificates) from the Ministry of Education, the change in policy for improvement seems to be in dire need. Post-Covid, along with the reopening of borders, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is issuing around 1,200 NOCs daily to Nepali students for foreign study.

It is undeniable that the flow of remittance has reduced poverty and supported the economy of every family back home. As per last year’s data, remittance is equal to more than a quarter of the GDP of Nepal. Despite these perks of remittances, if the government does not proactively address the brain drain, the country will lose its qualified skilled human resources in the critical sectors of the country like education, health, science, technology, and business. Nepal’s 15th five-year plan (FY2020-FY2024) aims to achieve national strategies of rapid, sustainable and employment-oriented economic growth. But, the dubiety is whether the country can progress with minimal skilled human assets in the envisaged time.

Needful reforms

brain drain representation
Representational image. Photo: Pexels/ meo

Some of the suggested avenues for change to address the brain drain could help retain educated capital in Nepal. First, the country needs to create a job that best fits their educational qualification. Many jobholders are struggling to get prominent positions even though they hold a high degree of education. Since a lower position means low payment, people are not satisfied with their current work and earnings. The practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends while recruiting for jobs is a major hindrance.

Second, promoting entrepreneurship among the young generation is essential to cope with the brain drain problem. Educated youth have the vigour and enthusiasm to introduce innovative business ideas using their skill and knowledge. Globalisation has provided a bulk of creative and ingenious ways of starting a business, which can provide a good return with even small investments.

The government needs to promote pro-youth programmes such as subsidised interest rates for loans to start businesses targeting prospective entrepreneurs, facilitating skill development training, providing a platform for sharing business ideas and also tax benefits to entrepreneurs for a certain time period. All of these can be a positive step towards addressing the brain drain problem in Nepal through youth empowerment.

Third, advancements in technology, infrastructure and other development areas play a major role in retaining educated and skilled talents in the country, thereby ruling out brain drain. Nepal is a country where relationships are valued and communal values are respected. But, people are challenged to stay apart due to the lack of opportunities here. When people find development opportunities in their own country, which they are looking for in foreign countries, individuals are more likely to stay in their home country with their own community.

No individual is really that enchanted to become inhabitants of a completely strange country leaving family, friends, relatives, and loved ones behind. Attempts should be made to retain qualified and educated personnel by providing better living opportunities to satisfy and sustain their lives and family.

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Maharjan is an MPhil scholar at Kathmandu University.

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