By Bibbi Abruzzini
KATHMANDU, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Almost half a million Nepalese migrated to foreign countries in search of job opportunities in 2013, as leaving the country has become increasingly "fashionable" , according to Director General of the Department of Foreign Employment, Krishna Hari Pushkar.
"The number of people wanting to leave the country is increasing day by day. Many are ready to accept the same type of job they would get in Nepal for a similar remuneration as going abroad has become a fashion rather than just a necessity," Pushkar said in an interview with Xinhua on Monday.
The number of job seekers going abroad increased by 59,506 in 2013 over the previous year.
Some 492,532 people looked for greener pastures according to a recently published report, among them were 461,769 male and 30,763 female. The top destinations are Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait.
Data showed that last year, 41,044 people per month and 1,349 per day made their luggage and left the country.
Although those going abroad with permission of the Department of Foreign Employment are 492,532, the number of those using illegal channels cannot be ascertained, according to Pushkar.
"Officially we say that there are currently 3 million Nepalese working abroad but in reality the number might reach almost 5 million," Pushkar explained.
Because of the open border with India, many Nepalese use the southern neighbor as a springboard, bypassing the government and the Department of Foreign Employment.
Young people use illegal channels to fulfill their dream of going abroad because they find Nepal's bureaucracy too slow and unfriendly.
According to Pushkar, underemployment and a youthful age structure have contributed to the predominance of economically motivated international migration from Nepal.
The country is now facing challenges of large-scale migration with many migrants, such as Ram Bahadur Pun, ready to work hard for money.
"I have been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 16 years. I am working in a supermarket but my life is full of sacrifices as I almost never see my family in Nepal," Pun told Xinhua on Tuesday.
When asked why he does not try to find a job in Nepal he answered that he doesn't believe he can find something suitable to his demands in his homeland.
A study by UN Women in 2013 states that a majority of Nepalese women who have been to the Gulf nations on foreign employment would prefer to stay back in the country if they could earn as little as Rs 8000 (about 80 U.S. dollars) per month at home.
Investigations also show that some economic migrants can go as far as applying for a refugee status in Western countries.
About 3,000 people visit the Department of Foreign Employment every day, but with limited human resources, the institution is unable to provide timely service.
Pushkar mentioned that they issue less working permits nowadays in an attempt to discourage people from leaving the country, but numbers show that that's not enough as the country's structural problems must be solved first to stop large-scale migration from Nepal.