Heidelberg University

Research focus

Migration & Sustainable Development in Nepal
- workers in carpet manufactories in the Kathmandu Valley

  • The research project focuses on economic development in Nepal and analyses to what degree this development is in line with the criteria for sustainable development, in terms of ecological, economic, and social sustainability, as defined by the World Bank (Serageldin 1996). One aspect of this project is to investigate into Nepal's economic geography, by analysing Nepal's role in the world market, arising from the production of goods for the world trade. Special interest is given to the production sector and to interlinkages between the production and service sectors. A second aspect is a social-geographic analysis of the labour market and its transformations and the influences these processes have upon regional development.

  • This topic will be exemplified by analysing migrant workers in carpet manufactories of the Kathmandu Valley because this sector has witnessed an extraordinary boom during the early 1990s with annual growth rates of 10 - 40 % and Nepal has interimly emerged as the world's forth largest supplier of carpets, accounting for almost 10 % of world trade in carpets. For Nepal, this sector has not only become the main source for foreign currency earnings but also her major source of employment outside agriculture (Pradhan 1993). In terms of urban development, this has lead to the mushrooming of manufacturing enterprises in the Kathmandu Valley, where the industry is mainly located, and at the same time to the subcontracting of labour intensive processes as the spinning of wool and weaving.

  • Simultaneously, the labour market has virtually exploded and the high demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour, and especially for women, has brought about an unprecedented influx of migrants from rural hill and Terai regions. Additionally, labour demands arising from the spinning of wool has caused the emergence of a home-based industry in villages at the outskirts of Kathmandu. The focus of the study is to analyse urban - rural interaction in terms of labour and (transfer of) capital and the impact of both boom and recent recession upon different social groups. Field work, mainly based on participatory rural appraisal, is carried out among workers of manufactories in the Kathmandu Valley and in rural areas in the hills and Terai where these migrant labourers come from.