Job and Justice

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Job and Justice

By Ravi Bhakta Shrestha

The three issues of employment, poverty reduction and social justice are intertwined and interrelated. Unemployed people are poor and it is true that poor people are unemployed. Poverty and unemployment are not just the breeding ground for social injustice; social injustice in itself may be the cause for remaining poor and unemployed. Unless we identify the causes from the effects, we are basically reduced to a "chicken and egg" dilemma.
On behalf of the Nepali private sector, I want to record a few observations on the issue of employment and unemployment in Nepal. There are a couple of reasons for doing this. First, Nepal's private sector has an important and dominating role to play in the generation of employment. If we fail to understand this fact, we are basically turning backward to a regime of state control and domination. Second, I personally feel that many of Nepal's present day problems like social unrest, violence and terrorism can be singularly explained through the unemployment and underemployment conditions of our people, especially, the educated youths in the urban centers. As the saying goes, unemployed mind is a devil's workshop. Unless we productively channel the available human resource in the country, we will fail to understand our development process.
Third, the only resource that is available in plenty in Nepal is human resource. Demographically speaking we have a large share of young people. That means a large number of working people. We are renowned throughout the world for discipline, dedication and hard work. Yet the fate has contrived in such a way that our youths have to go abroad for earning and employment, our workers constantly complain of their displacement by foreign workers, and we continue to churn out foreign investment policies saying that our competitive advantage is in a cheap labour force. Foreign investment is determined not by the cheapness of labour but by its productivity. We have failed to understand even this simple fact. Unless we resolve these paradoxical situations, our development dreams will continue to elude us. If unemployment and underemployment are such overriding concerns to us, what can we do to solve this problem? I would like to propose some ideas for the government to consider in its program for employment promotion.
    When it comes to the question of employment we are basically preoccupied with the concept of "wage employment". We have to move away from this concept of wage employment to self- employment generation. Since Nepal's employment economy is largely an informal and agriculture dominated one, I do not think it will be a difficult task to propagate self- employment. We need to promote the idea of entrepreneurship development, youth employment and self-employment schemes.
    There is a mismatch between the demand and supply of labour force in the country. The existing problem is not just of having inadequate jobs but also of not having required skills to match the available jobs. One way to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of the labour force is to provide incentives to the entrepreneurs and businessmen for job creation activities. Can we think of giving tax incentives to the businessmen for generating employment opportunities in Nepal? We can also dovetail our foreign investment policy with employment promotion policy.
    Instituting skill oriented training programs is another means to mitigate the dearth of skilled manpower in the country. Training is the mutual concern of the government, employers and the employees. I think we can work together on this.
    To meet the challenges imposed by the competitive globalized market, we have been calling for flexible labour laws. I believe that to a large extent unemployment problem in Nepal can be solved through. designing flexible labour laws. Rigid labour laws effectively discourage businessmen and entrepreneurs from job creation.
Lastly, the key concern in Nepal is not so much of the rights at work, rather it is of the right to work. It is important to preserve and defend the rights of the people who are at work. But it is more important to create work opportunities for people who are out of work. Let me quote here a line from the Director General of ILO: "There cannot be decent work without work itself." So let us first create work. 

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