Publication Date

April 2016


Gilbert Skillman


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


In urban centers throughout Nepal, the period between 1990 and 2015 was marked by both a substantial increase in the number of children and adults economically engaging with the city streets—the “street population”—and a steady rise in the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) responding to the apparent economic situation of street population—the “street-population sector.” Choosing a life on the streets has serious implications for citizens of Nepal, both in terms of acquiring their day-to-day basic needs as well as developing the social and vocational skills necessary for an economic transition off the streets. In the absence of a government response to the street population, privately operated street population-sector NGOs are the sole providers of social welfare services to members of the street population. The provision of social welfare services by the street population-sector NGOs, however, does not yield the optimal outcome of eventually promoting economic independence for members of the street population. An unintended consequence of providing social welfare to the street population is the creation of incentive problems that perpetuate a portion of the street population rather than reduce it. Despite the multitude of NGOs working towards the same long-term goals (generally speaking), the services of the street population-sector NGOs inadvertently produce unsustainable short-term alternatives to the streets for service recipients. Studying the period between 1990 and 2015, this thesis examines the emergence of Nepal’s street population, the performance of the street population-sector NGOs, and the dynamic between the Government of Nepal and the street population-sector NGOs. After describing different conceptions of the “street population,” it first illustrates how street population-sector NGOs create incentive problems for both the Government of Nepal and individual members of the street population. Second, it assesses how these incentive problems arise from organizations’ failure to align with the economic realities of Nepal as a lesser-developed economy. Finally, it presents policy steps that the Government of Nepal may take with respect to the street population-sector NGOs in order to promote a “second-best” solution to the incentive problems impeding the optimal provision of services.



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