How much money does a person from Nepal earn or make a day?
It’s a question many Nepali don’t know themselves. The Nepalese caste system makes it often times inappropriate for a lower caste to ask or even question a higher caste about money matters.
Curious, and not knowing myself, I set about to piece together the answer to daily earnings in Nepal.
My biggest obstacle? The embarrassed, knowing, smiling faces of the many Nepali I spoke to about their earnings.
You see, the Nepalese are a proud people. They know what I am asking. And, they know their plight.
My most common answer at the start was simply an embarrassed and awkward grin.
Then “Not much, sir.”
Until finally when I revealed I was putting together this article people came out of their shells and openly wanted to contribute.
The reason why?
Because they want the world that only ever hears about Everest trekking to know about the people living here!
Cost of living in Nepal (average, local)
100 rupees (NPR) = USD$1.15
- 45 minute bus ride NPR 30
- Taxi across capital NPR 100-150
- 1 litre of fuel NPR 125
- Non meat meal NPR (dal bhat) 100- 150
- 1 litre of clean water NPR 5-10
Wealth distribution in Nepal starts at zero
Go beyond the towns, trekking trails and out into the local villages. Many a mere two hours from the capital and you will meet families living on no money. They simply live off the land.
Rice is the main staple meal here along with vegetables and lentils. Mixed together with chili and garlic it creates the most popular meal that’s eaten only twice a day; Dhal Baht.
Rice is often taken to the roofs of many houses to be placed into storage for the winter months. This is when the average diet can get even bleaker.
On good seasons a large family can have a surplus crop and be able to trade it for meat or other crops in neighboring villages. At best they can sometimes sell their produce for some cash. 83% of the population live in rural areas.
Low income earnings in Nepal:
A housekeeper in Nepal gets paid 100 rupees per day. Sometimes nothing if they are plucked from a village and promised food and lodging.
An average guest house cook/cleaner/worker gets paid 100 rupees per day. Food is usually included here too.
A chief chef gets paid 150 rupees per day, plus food.
Manual construction workers get paid NPR 300-500
It should be noted that at this level, contracts are rarely written. Word of mouth is used to agree terms. Some tourist industry staff pay unions to represent them should a grievance occur.
The government states that the minimum wage in Nepal should be NPR 6,100 per month.
Middle income earnings in Nepal
- A restaurant waiter gets paid 100 rupees per day, plus 10% of the service charge added to meals, tips, and food.
- A taxi man earns NPR 200 – 300 per day after car rental (700-800) plus fuel.
- Public primary school teacher gets paid NPR 5,000 – 10,000 depending on area. Rural teachers get paid less.
- A starting bank staff member earns NPR 10,000 per month
- Secondary and tertiary teachers NPR 20,000 per month
- A starting level government worker gets NPR 7,000
Note: There are often hidden extras here, including monthly bonuses, food and fuel allowances.
Upper income salaries in Nepal
- A parliament member earns NPR 45,000 per month
- A bank manager can earn up to NPR 100,000 per month
- Senior telecommunications engineer NPR 100,000+
Government salaries in Nepal
- As of 2009 the Prime Minister of Nepal earns NPR 35,000 per month base + NPR 252,000 per month expenses/salaries for their team.
- Deputy prime minister expenses for their team NPR 175,000
- Minister expenses for their team NPR 132,000 (source)
Example of ministers salary system:
25 ministers on average in a fiscal year = NPR 4.47 million each month, including salaries and fuel, travel and daily allowances for all cabinet members.
However in the case of fuel expenses 6 million was spent for fuel while nearly 200,000 was actually spent …
Note: The above is for the ministers “teams” per month. And does not include additional expenses or “additional” funds. eg. transport out-of-town/country, out of hours work etc
Expats, NGO and overseas workers
Here we go into the strange world of incredibly high earnings of overseas worker in Nepal.
Many diplomats are paid here on a two tier system. Base salaries are paid into their home accounts while a live in country salary is paid in Nepalese rupees. Plus additional expenses for staff such as drivers, cooks, etc.
The scale of NGO workers salaries here is dependent on the organization. I will tackle this in a separate article. Sufficed to say, it’s impossible to measure as it’s not nationally regulated. Overseas donations, in and out of country tax reliefs, plus expenses make this a very murky and unfortunate scale.
- UN messenger (grade 1) per year earns NPR 454,849
- A senior UN Admin (grade 7) per year earns NPR 2,253,914
- A senior UN national officer (grade 7) earns NPR 4,957,280
Many senior positions, again, get a base salary + expenses + spouse allowance + child allowance + 1st and/or 2nd language allowance (source).
A note on small expat businesses in the Nepal:
In order to run a registered business in Nepal you need to be a national. Foreigners generally (that I am aware of) have only three options.
- Marry a local: in which case the local will have the property or business in their name
- Become a private investor in a Nepalese firm, using legal letters to state your investment
- Come from a SAARC country and things ease up, eg. Opening a bank account
The fourth option is a rather murky one that involves independent freelance workers such as foreign trekking guides benefit from language skills that cannot be obtained reasonable within Nepal e.g. French speaking guides, Japanese etc.
This by the way was one the reasons TAAN (Trekkers Agencies Association of Nepal) stated when they tried to ban independent trekking in 2012. A better idea might be to improve the national education system rather than profit even more from tourism.
Equality & fairness in the Nepalese salary:
Compare the above salaries and you will see that a cleaner is earning less than one meal’s worth of money per day, for an 8-10 hour job.
Yes, the reality is they also get fed the standard Nepalese two meals a day. But still, that number for the work being done is horrific.
Match this with the vast amounts of money people are making in the tourism sector in Nepal and there is a huge difference.
While the Government officials salaries may seem low, as you can see it’s their expenses that make them some of the wealthiest in Nepal in terms of lifestyle.
It’s no wonder so many Nepalese seek work overseas and there’s a revolving door of Nepalese governments coming and going.
Nepalese working overseas
The average unskilled Nepalese worker in Kuwait earns NPR 13, 200 per month
Compare that to a near zero income back home and you can see why over 15% of the population live overseas.
This is changing however with the last few years of global downturn leading to an estimated 17% drop in employment overseas. Examples of work drying up from Malaysia come from agriculture and manufacturing services not performing as well. And from the Middles East construction work and closures have led to a drying up of employment there.
There’s a chain effect in place. If construction work slows not only are their less Nepalese laborers needed, but there’s also a downturn in the number of cooks, waiters and housekeepers needed to support the industry.
Life of an overseas Nepalese worker
The idea of the grass is greener overseas is slowly disappearing in Nepal. With many Nepalese overseas workers returning home, not just due to lack of work, but also due to serious mistreatment and financial ruin.
Pressured to pay employment agencies most unskilled Nepalese workers are forced into debt repayment with agencies in Nepal. Then when overseas they are forced to surrender their passports to employers.
Hard work, poor sanitary / living conditions and a decade of debt to pay off many Nepalese realize they are in a bad position and try to leave. Without a passport many are caught and sent to prison in foreign countries.
Every year over 1,000 Nepalese overseas workers die*.
*The Nepalese government has tried to step in and help. Offering 20% of the return fare should a worker want to leave after 6 months of employment overseas. But the reality of keeping this in order is another thing. Cheap burials overseas are commonplace and more affordable than sending a body home.
Rape, physical abuse, non issuing of salaries, accidents and heath care problems are often reported on a frequent basis from overseas workers.
Back home many children are raised by their aunts, uncles and grandparents as both parents work overseas.
Some children I’ve met have not seen their parents for many years.
The positive side of the overseas Nepalese worker
On the positive side of overseas workers those that can save money can often send a child to school back home. Or for many bring their families to a new country for a better standard of living.
In a generation or two the Nepalese families often return a single member home to build a new house on their hereditary land in Nepal. Or start a new business to hire family members.
Using the education received overseas and the money earned by some family members is often the biggest start in life new generations of Nepali families can have back home.
It comes at a price though. Parent-less families and a social upbringing that’s missing a link in traditional culture. The reward is that there is now an abundance of food at the table.
This is an additional feature article about how much money a person from Nepal earns
If you’d like to visit Nepal then do check out my free travel guide to Nepal
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