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DRAFT - NOT FOR QUOTATION - 17 March 2009  

Socio-Demographic Indicators
Human Development Index
Human Development Index, Rank
Gender Development Index
Gender Development Index, Rank
Population Mid-year (In millions)
Rate of Natural Increase (%)
Life Expectancy (Male/Female)
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)
Economic Indicators
GDP Growth Rate (%)
GDP Per Capita (PPP US$)
GNI PPP Per Capita (US$)
Unemployment Rate
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)

Nepal is considered to be the poorest country in Asia with some 31 percent of the population living on less than US$1 a day. The Himalayan nation has a long history of political volatility and is now in a period of political and social change. Maoist rebels had sought to set up a communist republic against the constitutional monarchy since 1996. After a series of strikes and protests, King Gyanendra was removed from power in May 2006. In November 2006, the government and the Maoists made a peace deal to end the 10-year armed conflict. Overall, poverty declined by 11 percent between 1996 and 2004, but the distribution of resources and opportunities has been unequal among different ethnic groups (DFID, n.d.). Economic prospects of Nepal remain poor because of limited (small) domestic market, inadequate infrastructure, landlocked geographic location, poor governance, among others. In such a background, remittances of overseas Nepalese have been a growing source of national income and a major contributor to poverty reduction.



Another issue concerns the presence of some 107,000 (between 105,000 and 108,000) Bhutanese of Nepalese descent (members of the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa community evicted in 1985 from Bhutan) languishing in seven UN-run camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s (AMN, 31 May 2007). In August 2006, Bhutanese refugees staged a sit-in protest, seeking for a safe return to their home country (AMN, 31 August 2006). They were likewise protesting the government’s move to cut down on medicine and food supplies, education and other basic needs and its plan to send them to a third country. In 2007, a series of clashes erupted between locals and Bhutanese refugees. The two governments have not yet found a solution to this issue in spite of repeated negotiation; 16 rounds of ministerial talks between the two countries failed to reach an agreement on repatriating the refugees (AMN, 15 April 2007). The US offered to resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees and started to accept applications in September 2007 (AMN, 15 September 2007). Canada and Australia also expressed their willingness to resettle them. However, the refugees are divided over the US offer; there exists the rising tension between those wanting to return to Bhutan and those in favor of immigrating to the US.


The Parliament passed the citizenship bill on 26 November 2006 that would grant citizenship to some five to six million children born before 1990 to at least one Nepali parent (AMN, 15 September 2006; AMN 30 November 2006).[1] The beneficiaries include children of migrant workers and prostitutes who regularly cross the border into India (AMN, 15 September 2006). The law is of particular concern to the Madhesi community living in the Terai region on its India border.



Labor migration has become a major feature of Nepal’s economy and society in the last decade. Poverty, lack of job opportunities and political instability (government vs. the Maoist) have left people with no other options but migration. Over 105,000 Nepalese workers left for overseas employment in 14 foreign destinations from July 2005 to January 2006, up to 40.98 percent compared to the 74,000 recorded in the same seven-month period in the previous fiscal year (AMN, 15 March 2006). More than one half of them (53,000) were deployed to Malaysia, 32,000 to Qatar, 9,268 to Saudi Arabia and 9,226 to the UAE. Over 600,000 Nepali workers are in the Gulf region, with some 150,000 of them working in the UAE alone (AMN, 15 July 2007). There are an estimated 950,000 Nepalis working in the public and private sectors in India. In this flow to India, there are also reports of trafficking of women to the sex industry. The inflow of remittances has helped household consumption to remain high. Remittances from overseas Nepali workers reached $1.46 billion in 2005-2006, comprising 16.8 percent of the country’s GDP (AMN, 15 May 2007).




Asian Development Bank (ADB)

2007   “South Asia: Nepal.” In Asian Development Outlook 2007. Available at, accessed on 8 December 2008.


Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years


Department for International Development (DFID)

n.d.    Nepal.” Available at, accessed on 5 January 2009.


Population Reference Bureau

2008   “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at, accessed on 21 November 2008.


United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

2007   “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at, accessed on 9 December 2008.

[1] Previous laws granted citizenship only to children with Nepali fathers. 

© Scalabrini Migration Center, 2000. All rights reserved.