Each year thousands of Nepalis migrate to Japan and South Korea to earn a foreign degree while working part-time jobs in hopes of saving up. But fulfilling these dreams has proved to be extremely challenging.
Rudra Simkhada, who studies in a university in Tokyo says, "It is difficult to meet expenses when the Japanese government allows us to work only 28 hours a week." He admits that most Nepali students come to Japan with the intention of earning big bucks, but they quickly learn how different reality is.
"Most jobs that are open to immigrants like construction work, and farm help are physically demanding so female students have a harder time finding employment," says Jhuma Maharjan who also works and studies in Tokyo.
Jigyan Kumar Thapa, who works as researcher and translator in a Japanese media company says, "A Japanese academic notes in her research how Gorkhalis were known around the world for fighting enemies with their khukuris. Today they use the same khukuri to chop meat and vegetables in restaurants." There are over a thousand Nepali restaurants in Japan which employ more than 6,000 Nepalis.
Ram Khatri, who has worked in five-star hotels in Kathmandu, is currently a cook in Saino restaurant in downtown Tokyo. "Our employers don't tell us what our job responsibilities are and there are no fixed working hours either. Depending on the demand, a person has to cook, clean, and serve guests at the same time. Sometimes I have even cooked for hundreds of people on my own," he says. Khatri also revealed that migrant workers are often mistreated by owners and made to work without any food or salary.
Things are no better for those who work in South Korea under the government's EPS program. "The government lied to us. We were told we would have to work 40-45 hours a week, and provided with training, clothes, and food. But we are made to work 70-75 hours a week with only two days off in a month and so far the Korean state has provided us no services," complained a woman who works as a farm help in Korea.
"Many Nepali men and women marry Koreans to gain entry into the country, and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse," adds researcher Manju Thapa about the deplorable conditions of Nepali immigrants.