The study looks at how the migration experience abroad can influence how politics is conceived by migrants and family members at home
The findings of a new study on the remittance economy hint that migration, besides contributing to the economy, has facilitated broader social and political changes in Nepal that have affected local politics and elections.
Despite remittance being the mainstay of Nepal’s economy, few researchers have looked at how labour migration is changing social and political dynamics at the local level, and the impact of remittance on social structures, political participation and contestation.
Labor Migration and the Remittance Economy is published by the Centre for the Study of Labour and Migration for The Asia Foundation and USAID, and clarifies that the rise in political autonomy doesn’t have significant impact on voting patterns. The study looks at how the migration experience abroad can influence how politics is conceived by migrants and family members at home.
“Due to the changes in political behaviour, an increasing proportion of left-behind members and returnees are voting over the years,” the report says.
Although political disenchantment is one of the push factors for migration, a significant number of returnees participate in political parties. Only 9.9 per cent of prospective migrants were engaged in political parties whereas 13 per cent of returnees were engaged in parties, according to the survey.
This could mean that migration has played an important role in providing migrant households with the economic means to consolidate changes in relations between the poor and landless with landed patrons.
“The change has been achieved by reducing the dependency of the poor and landless on their landlords for needs such as land, loans and employment,” it explains.
Interviews were conducted in 401 households in Panchthar, Dhanusa, Nawalparasi, Kaski and Kailali in 2016 with returnees, left-behind family members, prospective migrants and non-migrants. Questions covered the relationship between political parties and voters, gender, differences in political aspirations between the younger and older cohorts and the impact of migration on local institutions.
The study suggests that efforts like better protection of migration workers at home and abroad, safer working conditions, easier access to credit and enhanced investment opportunities for remittance will amplify the benefits of migration.
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