India has an estimated 1.7 million Nepali migrants working in various parts of the country. This study, the first of its kind, is an exploration of the lifestyle-related issues facing these migrants. Led by Dr Pramod Regmi and Prof Edwin van Teijlingen, it aims to explore health-seeking behaviours of Nepali migrants.
What was the idea behind the study?
There are approximately 4 million Nepalese working abroad, primarily in India (38%), Gulf and Malaysia. Most engage in semi-skilled or unskilled labour — for example, men mainly on building sites, in factories, and women mainly in domestic work. These migrants send around US$4 billion (28% of Nepal’s GDP back home every year). However, this income is often at a great personal cost to the workers. About 1,000 Nepalese migrant workers die every year and 10% of these deaths are due to suicide. Many hundreds of Nepalese migrant workers return home with serious injuries or poor mental health.
Cross-border migration between India and Nepal is not a new phenomenon. Migrants from Nepal are the third largest group of foreign nationals in India. However, most previous studies among Nepali migrants in India have predominantly focused on sexual risk-taking behaviours. As far as we know, there is no previous research that has been conducted into the experience of Nepali migrants in India around their lifestyles, health and wellbeing and working environment, despite India being a popular destination for many Nepalese men and women workers. A few recent studies with Nepalese migrants in other settings such as the Gulf countries reported that injuries or accidents at workplace are not uncommon. There are also many barriers to seeking health care at destination countries. So our study is to gain insights around lifestyles and wellbeing of Nepalese migrants in India.
How are you approaching this study?
We will collect data from both male and female Nepalese migrants to explore around:
- How do Nepali migrants in India view their lifestyle-related behaviours (e.g. alcohol, exercise, socialising) whilst in India?
- Where do they seek help around health and illness?
- What is their social life, living conditions (e.g. accommodation, exclusion from community), working environment (e.g. nature of work, occupational injuries, facilities such as leave, duration of work)?
- What is the mental health status (e.g. anxiety, worry) and overall quality of life of Nepali migrants?
We will also interview relevant stakeholders (e.g. charities working for Nepalese migrants, health care professionals) in India to understand their views on different health and wellbeing issues of Nepalese migrants.
Who are you partnering with for this project?
In India, we are working closely with the Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Science (Nagpur). In the UK, we are partnering with the Liverpool John Moores University. Our team members and collaborators have long-standing experience in public health research in Nepal and combined have published more than 150 scientific papers, including several migration-related articles. Together we bring a range of expertise, including expertise in qualitative research, migration, public health, and medical sociology.
How will your findings benefit the scientific community, stakeholders, and the migrant community?
This research has short and longer-term benefits for the scientific community, public health practitioners, and community services such as medical and counselling services in Nepal and India, and members of the intended target group (migrant workers and their family). As pre-departure orientation is mandatory for Nepalese labour migrant workers, this is however currently being aimed at the migrants going to other countries than India. We have a notion that understanding health and lifestyles of Nepalese migrants in India (e.g. risk taking behaviours, risk factors for poor mental health) will help facilitate incorporating these components in the pre-departure orientation curricula targeted at aspiring Nepali migrants to India. Our findings will also be useful for the relevant stakeholders (e.g. charities working for Nepalese migrants in India). Furthermore, our findings will form the basis for larger research project grants that considers public health issues of South Asian migrants.