Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Nepal earthquake and migration

Excerpts from a NYT story on Nepal earthquake and migration of young men:

The absence of young men has been keenly felt over the last week, as those left alive in isolated villages dug with their hands trying to free survivors. Many of the children caught up in the earthquake’s destruction were already growing up without fathers at home. Frail older people have been left to manage the aftermath on their own. And economists say that unless the government acts swiftly to create work opportunities at home, the exodus of young people will accelerate after the relief operation ends, permanently handicapping the country’s ability to rebuild.

[…]‘‘The government has to create a relief package if they want to retain them,’’ said Chandan Sapkota, chief economics officer at the Asian Development Bank in Kathmandu. ‘‘Somebody needs to plow the field, plant the rice. If these temporary migrants are given enough incentives to stay in the village, their first instinct would be to do that. But it has to be really fast.’’

[…]The Asian Development Bank has already downgraded its projections for economic growth in Nepal to 4.2 percent this year, from 4.6 percent before, but Mr. Sapkota said he now believed the fall would be steeper, to the range of 3 to 3.5 percent. The tourism industry, which had been growing and contributing about 9 percent of the country’s total output, is now expected to drop off sharply.

Though men will be kept busy during the initial relief effort, but when it ends, Kathmandu’s factories and construction sites could face a labor shortage, Mr. Sapkota said, as many workers return to their native villages to rebuild houses. Jobs in the villages are scarce, though, so once that work is done, many will conclude that they can best help their families by going abroad and sending their earnings home.

‘‘If you are with your family, but without a job, without money, how exactly are you going to help?’’ he said.

The country’s absent young men have been sorely missed over the last week, according to Kanak Mani Dixit, the founding editor of Himal Southasian magazine and one of Nepal’s most prominent journalists. It has been felt at funerals, where, according to custom, bodies are carried on bamboo poles without being laid down, sometimes for hours, until the burial party reaches a riverbed. And their absence had a profound effect when the earthquake struck, said Mr. Dixit, who said he went to help an elderly neighbor who lived alone after he had moved his own parents to safety.

“The young adults — the sons — are mostly away, in Malaysia, the gulf, indeed parts of India,” he said. “The house shudders, and you cannot be assisted. You are slow. And you get caught.”