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Nepal is one of the least developed countries in Asia. The decade-long internal conflict, which ended in 2006, severely affected the development of infrastructure, limited industrialization, and resulted in inadequate economic opportunities. Poverty, severe social inequalities, unemployment and underemployment exacerbating the trend of forced foreign labour migration leading to increased vulnerability to trafficking, are among the serious concerns that particularly affect women, as one of the most marginalized groups in Nepal.

Migration Trends

Foreign labour migration has made a significant impact on the socio-economic fabric of Nepal. There are approximately 4 million Nepali migrants working in India alone and around 3.2 million workers in other countries, of which half are undocumented. Worker remittancesare estimated at NRs. 209 billion per year, which is roughly 22% of Nepal's GDP, and have helped reduce Nepal's poverty level from 42% to 31%. At present, women comprise approximately up to 15% of the migrant labour force and, according to the 2001 census, 11% of women migrant workers have contributed to the total remittance.

Key Issues

Poverty and Unemployment: a byproduct of the political crisis in Nepal is the soaring unemployment rate. As much as 14% of the population is unemployed and 40% is underemployed (need to indicate source? as there are multiple data on this), with women's unemployment even higher. The lack of economic opportunities and widespread poverty coupled with the low statusof women and girls in Nepal, compel women to migrate to urban areas and other countries in the region for work.

Restrictive Policies: Both origin and employment countries have implemented various policies that restrict the mobility of women migrants from Nepal. For instance, a ban on the migration of women to the Gulf countries was imposed by the Nepali government in 1998 after a reported case of sexual abuse of a Nepali domestic worker, but was partially lifted in 2003.Destination countries, including Israel, and most notably, Hong Kong, have imposed strict visa requirements and restrictions for Nepali workers. Such ambiguous policies have further fuelled abuses and exploitations of Nepali women blurring the lines between foreign labour migration, human smuggling and human trafficking and enhancing the vulnerability of Nepali migrant workers more specifically WMWs

Informal Networks: a large number of women migrate through informal networks and personal connections due to the lack of clear official channels. The process is risky and expensive, does not guarantee job placement, and is controlled by agents that are not officially registered. Often, India is used as a transit point for migration to a third country. These irregular channels further increase the number of undocumented workers, of which the women are particularly unprotected from abuse and exploitation in various stages of foreign employment.

Lack of awareness: Most migrant women are not provided pre-departure trainings to prepare them for the experience and inform them of their rights. As a result, many women lack access to formal recruitment process and have no formal working contracts hence end up with poor working conditions, lower wages and high discrimination, but have little recourse for action. Illegal migrants in particular face added discrimination by their employers and are threatened by deportation. Lack of access to social services and low literacy levels among women are further obstacles.

Government Efforts

The Foreign Employment Act of 2007 has removed gender-discriminatory provisions, and has added social protections forwomen migrant workers, including reimbursement of pre-departure orientation fees, establishment of safe homes in countries of employment, government –issued insurance, free legal aid, and scholarships and child-care centers for migrant workers' children. Moreover, Nepal's next Three Year Plan focuses onforeign employment generation; the Youth and Migration Policies address concerns of women migrant workers; and to improve research, a new question on migration has been included in the upcoming Census 2011 and for the first time seeking the linkages between conflict, displacement and migration generating evidence to bring coherent and policies to address these issues

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