Far West Nepalese Labour Migrants in Delhi

NCCR North-South Dialogue, No. 15

by Susan Thieme

Bern, NCCR North-South, 2007

In Far West Nepal – an area extremely impoverished even by Nepalese standards – labour migration to India has been an integral part of the livelihood strategies of the majority of the people for several generations. This paper is based on case studies among male and female migrants in Delhi who came from four villages in Far West Nepal. The analysis focused on selected aspects of the migrants’ daily lives, such as working and living conditions, management of loans and savings, and remittance transfers. It was found that the whole migration process is mainly facilitated by transnational kin and friendship networks. To grasp the geographical and social dimensions of the migrant’s lives, an integrative approach was combined with the sustainable livelihoods approach, Bourdieu’s theory of practice and his concept of social capital, with a view to contribute to developing the concept of transnational migration. 
The results show in addition that the majority of the migrants were male. The unskilled migrants occupy a distinct niche in which men have been working as watchmen and car cleaners for generations. The job market is highly organized, as jobs are handed over and sold within networks. If wives of migrants are in Delhi for longer periods, they engage in housekeeping. To meet their financial needs, migrants established their own informal savings and credit associations. Although migration is primarily seen as an opportunity by the migrants, it can also perpetuate debt and dependency, meaning that people remain migrants for their entire lives.

Thieme S. 2007. Social Networks and Migration: Far West Nepalese Labour Migrants in Delhi. 2nd edition [2006]. NCCR North-South Dialogue, 15. Bern, Switzerland: NCCR North-South.


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