Nepal's Largest Export: Youth

Publish by : Lauren Preiditsch
After spending several months in Kathmandu there are few things about the city that still surprise me. I have become accustomed to things like cows stopping traffic to cross the road, dodging peoples' spit as I walk down the street, and the wild yet organized chaos of traffic. However, recently on my morning commute I spotted something new. As I passed the neighbourhood of Putalisadak, I noticed that attached to nearly every building were dozens of signs reading “STUDY ABROAD” along with the various countries to choose from. Although the occurrence of youth studying abroad is not uncommon, the sheer number of agencies promoting their services, coupled with my knowledge on Nepal's labour migration crisis set off some alarm bells in my head. Signs in Putalisadak, Kathmandu advertising international education consulting agencies I decided to ask a local friend of mine, Rachana, about youth migration to see if she had any insights on the situation. In Rachana’s opinion youth opt to study abroad for two main reasons; the shortcomings of Nepals universities and the lack of employment options for youth in Nepal. She estimates that 60% of her high school classmates have gone abroad for school, and that none have plans of returning to Nepal. After my discussion with Rachana I decided to explore the two reasons she gave for youth studying abroad. To start, I looked at the quality of education at Nepali universities. In many universities, faculty members lack the necessary skills and knowledge to teach, with many young professors only holding undergraduate degrees. There have been reported cases of professors relying on students to teach one another or skipping sections of the syllabus all together. In addition, the curriculum being taught is dated and professors teach to the test, which results in a lack of relevant and comprehensive knowledge for students[1]. Next, I researched the job market for Nepalese youth. I found that every year 350,000 youth enter the labour force in Nepal, from this 35,000 obtain jobs domestically, 100,000 migrate abroad for employment and the remaining 215,000 are unemployed. This is a result of the limited employment opportunities youth have in Nepal, and because of this 46% of all employed youth in Nepal are underemployed[2]. There is limited information on the exact number of Nepalese youth abroad, however, the overall number of foreign labour permits issued between the years 2008-2017 exceeded 3.5 million[3]. After researching the education system and youth employment opportunities, it is clear why many Nepalese youth are migrating abroad for education. So, what is the solution for youth migration in Nepal?Even if Nepalese youth are able to obtain quality education, it is unlikely they will be able to find employment opportunities that match their education level, and vice versa. Thus, it is crucial that both problems be solved in unison. The government of Nepal has been working to mitigate youth migration through their Youth Vision - 2025 Ten Year Strategic Plan. The plan includes strategies for job creation and ways to enhance the education system. While this is a positive move forward, it is difficult to determine the success of the planned programs this early on. Some of the youth organizations in Nepal have also been working to solve this problem. Practices such as capacity building, financial and development support for youth entrepreneurship, and government lobbying are commonly carried out. However, at the end of the day it is impossible to point to one clear solution for this massive problem. I still have a long journey in Nepal with many surprises ahead. Towards the end of my trip I hope that rather than the occasional monkey sighting or packs of stray dogs in the night, I will be surprised by Nepals development actions for youth.  
  1. Williams, R. J. (2018). Feed the Future Innovation Lab For Livestock Systems HICAST Human and Institutional Capacity Development Gap Analysis (Summary Report and Recommendations for Work Plan and MOU Development). USAID.
  2. Neupane, S. (2015). An Analysis Of Important Policies For Accelerating Development In Nepal. Tataloka,17(1), 1. doi:10.14710/tataloka.17.1.1-11
  3. Government of Nepal. (2018). Labour Migration for Employment: A Status Report for Nepal: 2015/2016 – 2016/2017 (Rep.). Kathmandu: Government of Nepal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Retrieved from

Stay informed

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to know!