Article Text

What is the prevalence of and associations with forced labour experiences among male migrants from Dolakha, Nepal? Findings from a cross-sectional study of returnee migrants
  1. Joelle Mak1,
  2. Tanya Abramsky1,
  3. Bandita Sijapati2,
  4. Ligia Kiss1,
  5. Cathy Zimmerman1
  1. 1 Department of Global Health and Development, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2 Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility, Social Science Baha, Kathmandu, Nepal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Joelle Mak; joelle.mak{at}


Objectives Growing numbers of people are migrating outside their country for work, and many experience precarious conditions, which have been linked to poor physical and mental health. While international dialogue on human trafficking, forced labour and slavery increases, prevalence data of such experiences remain limited.

Methods Men from Dolakha, Nepal, who had ever migrated outside of Nepal for work were interviewed on their experiences, from predeparture to return (n=194). Forced labour was assessed among those who returned within the past 10 years (n=140) using the International Labour Organization's forced labour dimensions: (1) unfree recruitment; (2) work and life under duress; and (3) impossibility to leave employer. Forced labour is positive if any one of the dimensions is positive.

Results Participants had worked in India (34%), Malaysia (34%) and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (29%), working in factories (29%), as labourers/porters (15%) or in skilled employment (12%). Among more recent returnees (n=140), 44% experienced unfree recruitment, 71% work and life under duress and 14% impossibility to leave employer. Overall, 73% experienced forced labour during their most recent labour migration.

Forced labour was more prevalent among those who had taken loans for their migration (PR 1.23) and slightly less prevalent among those who had migrated more than once (PR 0.87); however the proportion of those who experienced forced labour was still high (67%). Age, destination and duration of stay were associated with only certain dimensions of forced labour.

Conclusion Forced labour experiences were common during recruitment and at destination. Migrant workers need better advice on assessing agencies and brokers, and on accessing services at destinations. As labour migration from Nepal is not likely to reduce in the near future, interventions and policies at both source and destinations need to better address the challenges migrants face so they can achieve safer outcomes.

  • migration
  • public health
  • mental health

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from


  • Contributors This study was conducted as part of the Study of Work in Freedom Transnational Evaluation for which CZ and LK are co-PIs. This analysis is part of JM's doctoral research. LK, CZ and JM were involved in the study conception and design. JM, LK, CZ and BS designed the data collection tool. JM managed the data collection; cleaned, analysed and interpreted the data; and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. TA provided statistical advice. All authors contributed to interpretation, critically reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This project was supported by the UK Department for International Development (GB-1-203857).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent There were no patients involved in the study. However all study participants signed a consent form prior to data collection.

  • Ethics approval LSHTM Ethics Committee and the Nepal Health Research Council.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.