Country Overview: Nepal

Nepal is a South-Asian country nestled in the land of Himalayas and the greater Indian subcontinent with a population of approximately 30 million. For a country where unemployment and poverty are extensive, labour migration has strongly emerged as a fundamental livelihood strategy. Nepal has often been in the radar of the most remittance dependent countries with almost 23% of its GDP coming from personal remittances (MOLESS, 2020; World Bank, 2022).

As one of the economically disadvantaged countries within the region, Nepal has an estimated 20.2% of its population living below the poverty line, according to the country’s National Living Standards Survey from 2022/23. Nepal has chronically been at the end of low economic growth due to its history of a civil war (1996-2006), repeated changes in the government and natural disasters. However, recent GDP reports suggest that the past few years actually have been better for Nepal in terms of economic recovery and improving living standards, largely attributed to its massive labour migration (World Bank, 2022).

Nepal’s labour migration data shows that 500,000 – 600,000 labour approvals are issued every year, while over 1.8 million labour approvals have been renewed since 2011/12 (MOLESS, 2022). Labour migration, however, is not a new phenomenon for Nepal as historically large number of Nepalese have been migrating to India for work facilitated by the free-border movement. But this trend has shifted; it’s now reported that 88% of the migrant labour force are concentrated in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and Malaysia (MOLESS, 2020). Despite being systematized as formal labour migration by the government since the 1990s, these migrants have been subjected to the most precarious migration journeys due to extensive labour exploitation and human rights violation. Typically, labour migrants follow temporary and repeated trajectories in the absence of integration rights in these destination countries. This means the country also experiences high number of returns and remigration to one of the above destination countries over and over again.

According to the National Labour Force Survey for 2017/18, Nepal had a total of 762,000 labour migrants returnees at the time of the survey. Since the implementation of a digital tool as Foreign Employment Information Management System (FEIMS) within the Immigration port of Tribhuwan International airport, it has recorded that there were 203,934  labour returnees in the year 2020/21 and 470,978 in 2021/22 (MOLESS, 2022). Return data, however, needs to be viewed cautiously as those who migrated without a ‘labour permit’ are not officially considered to be returnees.

The data estimates that almost 44% of the returnees are outside of the labour force emphasizing their vulnerability after return.
(MOLESS, 2022)

Reintegration of returnees has been addressed by the Government of Nepal as a challenging issue pertaining to the absence of comprehensive knowledge on labour migrants’ demographics, return, livelihood and future ambitions (MOLESS, 2022). As a step forward, Nepal has now adopted a national reintegration policy which is the Reintegration Programme (Operation and Management) Directives for Returnee Migrant Workers, 2022. Synchronously, several reintegration efforts have been ‘documented’ to be in motion through both government and non-government actors within a short span of time whilst results are yet to be seen.

In the Reintegrate project we are exploring this ‘recently yet rapidly’ developing reintegration governance in Nepal and its implementation, how different actors influence reintegration governance and the impact (or not) of these different reintegration governance efforts on the reintegration experiences of returnees.


Cosic, D., Dahal, S., & Kitzmuller, M. (2017). Climbing higher: toward a middle-income Nepal. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. Retrieved from

Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security. (2020). Nepal Labour Migration Report 2020. Nepal Government. Retrieved from

Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security. (2022). Nepal Labour Migration Report 2022. Nepal Government. Retrieved from

National Bureau of Statistics Nepal. (2023). National Living Standards Survey, 2022/23. Retrieved from
World Bank. (2022). Nepal. Retrieved from

Related blog posts