The National Human Rights Commission has said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a number of negative impacts on the right to employment of citizens in Nepal.

According to ‘Human Rights Situation During COVID-19 Pandemic: A Brief Assessment’ released by the rights body earlier this week, the Public Service Commission (PSC) postponed all scheduled written examinations of civil service, security agencies and various government bodies that are the main sources of formal employment in Nepal.

A meeting of PSC had decided to postpone all written examinations scheduled for between March 21 and April 12, 2020 until further notice citing the ongoing pandemic.

“This even continued in October, 2020. PSC was scheduled to conduct examinations for more than 400 posts of section officer immediately after Dashain. Then in October 2020, PSC prepared a guideline for conducting the examination, barring COVID-19 patients from appearing in the tests.”

“Lawyers then moved the Supreme Court, challenging PSC’s decision to prohibit COVID-19 patients from appearing in PSC exams and argued that it would deprive citizens of their right to equality and right to employment guaranteed by the constitution,” the report read.

The Supreme Court ordered PSC not to execute the provision that barred COVID-19 applicants from appearing in PSC exams. The court observed that if job applicants were barred from appearing in the PSC exams, then their right to equality, right against discrimination and right to employment guaranteed by the constitution would be violated.

The court asked the PSC to make alternative arrangements for COVID positive candidates so that they could safely take the exams.

Similarly, according to a study commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme, three in every five employees in both formal and non-formal micro, small and medium enterprises in Nepal have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Stating that the impact on labour differed in the nature of their job contract, the study revealed that permanent workers had either faced pay cuts or were unpaid as they were backed by strong labour laws that discourage layoffs.

As per NHRC’s report, approximately 5.7 million or 80.8 per cent of workers in Nepal have informal jobs. The majority of workers in all sectors are in informal employment, including the sectors expected to face the highest degree of disruption.

Informal workers lack the basic benefits usually provided by a formal job, including social protection coverage. If they stop working due to economic downturn, sickness, or quarantine, they have no government funded safety net.

Another category of workers in precarious situation are homebased workers. There are approximately 1.4 million home-based workers in Nepal – nearly all women – producing goods for export.

With global supply blocked due to the pandemic, this source of livelihood is also at risk.