When a nation makes public commitments to improve the condition of its migrant population, there is often a large disparity between the language used and the action taken. But Nepal’s recent pledge to increase the salaries of citizens working in the Gulf may carry more credibility than most: Last year, Nepal lobbied Kuwait to raise the minimum wage for its citizens from 40 KWD ($144.51) to 60 KWD ($216.76). The monthly wage may still be rather low, but the 50% increase represented a significant achievement for Nepal's government.
Currently, Nepalese are amongst the least well-paid in the Gulf, earning from approximately $125-$200 per month. Nepal wants to change that; raising wages has several benefits for both host countries and migrants, which may be why Gulf governments are more responsive to salary-related appeals than to other migrant issues. Higher salaries attract more skilled workers, and also allow for migrants to live more comfortably while still apportioning a percentage of their income for remittances - which means they can afford to to spend more money in their host countries, thereby avoiding the ‘siphoning of wealth’ that has some Gulf nations worried.
Raises are also critical to improving the migrant experience. Higher salaries may be one of the most straightforward (and more readily attainable) measures to counterbalance other difficulties migrants face, which for Nepalese in particular include serious debt from job placement fees. The migrant situation in the Gulf is much more than an economic issue, but wages are a telling reflection of the value society holds for the occupations they fill. Higher wages can detract from the perception of migrants as cheap, disposable units of labor and instead cement migrants' worth in both their employer's eyes and their own.