Global downturn hits Asia’s foreign workers

KATHMANDU, August 9, 2009 (AFP) – When Anita Gimmi was unable to find work in her native Nepal last year, she borrowed 1,300 dollars and travelled to Qatar to take up a two-year contract with a cleaning company there. Less than a year later, the 26-year-old has been forced to return home still heavily in debt after becoming one of thousands of foreign workers to be laid off as the economic downturn hits Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

“I had no choice but to go abroad because there are no employment opportunities here in Nepal,” said Gimmi, whose parents, husband and son all depended on her monthly salary of 155 dollars.

“The family had quite a decent life for a while, but now our situation is miserable. Even getting two proper meals a day is becoming difficult as I don’t have any income at present.”

Millions of families in poor Asian countries rely on remittances from relatives working in unskilled jobs such as construction or as domestic servants in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

But the World Bank last month forecast a 7.3 percent fall in remittance flows to developing nations in 2009 as the recession hits jobs in richer countries that have traditionally employed large numbers of