Regionalisation of Labour Skill Development

It is a common knowledge that labor or human resource plays a significant role in contributing to the economic progress and wellbeing of the individuals of a nation. Such is derived from the basic principle of economics that recognizes labor and capital to be two vital factors of production that contribute towards the national income and the Per Capita Income (PCI) of an economy. Meanwhile, labor skill development remains as a vital element that contributes towards improving the productivity of existing labor and enlarging the size of the labor pool to intensify the contribution of labor workforce of the country towards national economic growth.

Speaking of such, the Constitution of Nepal has enlisted the jurisdiction related to labor welfare and dispute resolution related affairs under the joint purview of Federal and Provincial Governments. Likewise, the unbundling report submitted by the Federal cabinet of ministers in 2017 has clearly recognized the functions related to policy development and regulation of employment-oriented skillful and vocational training within the very jurisdiction. So, given the concurrent authority and function of provincial government specifically in areas of labor skill development, it definitely reserves a certain significance for the overall labor development scene of the country. Such is maintained because Nepal, in contrast to most nations, has designated pockets of localized skills that require at least regional overview. The same is reasoned due to variation in geography and socio-economic context that has created a regional pattern of economic competencies. For instance, provinces that mostly feature hilly and mountainous geography naturally reserve economic competencies in areas of specialty, such as, high-altitude crop farming & harvesting, hospitality, and tourism that have historically influenced the economic practices of the labor resources of that society. On the other hand, provinces that border the southern frontier of the country may comparatively reserve economic competencies in large-scale agricultural and industrial production that could have dictated the socio-economic practice of the region. As such, skill development programs and policies that specifically address the regional economic competencies is essential. And for that matter, a unilateral skill development policy devised by the federal government may be ineffective. Instead, the involvement of provincial governments is expected to retain better knowledge of diverse regional economic and socio-cultural contexts, which is fundamental for the development of regional labor skill-development policies.

In such context, the constitutionally delegated authority of provincial governments in labor development and welfare-related affairs in conjunction with the federal government provides an opportunity for provincial governments to engage in the development and regulation of labor policies. However, the political reality of the country has not always favored a collaboration between the central authority and subnational governments. As such, the federal government is also likely to dominate the policy landscape of labor skill development. In fact, the explicit presence of the supremacy clause defending the legislative superiority of the federal government in areas of intergovernmental relationships is likely to increase the chances of the discussed unfavorable situation. Therefore, it can be acquiesced that the situation heavily depends on the motive of the federal government to sufficiently engage provincial governments in the development of labor policies that address regional economic competencies.

Nevertheless, the recently submitted Intergovernmental Relationship Bill that elaborates on the matter related to the formulation of laws and policies in areas that fall under the joint purview of multiple governments can be an important avenue to allow regionalization of labor skill development policies and regulation. The Bill, if enacted, shall allow the federal government to categorize the areas that fall under the joint purview of multiple governments within a continuum that ranges from the full authority of the federal government to complete delegation of authority to subnational governments regarding law formulation, execution, and regulation. Amid the probability for such provision to be enforced, it is highly recommended that the federal government situate labor development and welfare-related affairs in any of the categories provided in the Bill that enables provincial governments to significantly contribute to formulating and regulating labor skill development policies that address the regional economic context.  By being able to sufficiently regionalize labor development and other labor-related affairs, the opportunity to leverage on regional economic competencies exists. Such shall, in turn, contribute towards balanced regional economic development leading to the economic well-being of locals and the nation at large.

– This article was originally published by Prience Shrestha in The Himalayan Times on February 16, 2020.