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Bangladesh - 3 weeks ago

Potential labour markets stuck in 10 countries

Rabiul Haque: Mansoor Ali of Jhenaidah went to Saudi Arabia for work in December last year on a so-called ‘free’ visa. However, even though he bought the visa with cash, he still did not find a job. He spent about Tk 6 lakh to buy the visa. He said that there are many Bangladeshis who are not getting work by buying ‘free’ visa in Saudi Arabia. Mansoor Ali said, job seekers are coming to Saudi Arabia every day from the country, but there is no work. They have to live a sub-human life. Some are crossing to other countries with the help of brokers.
According to official data, Bangladeshi workers go to 168 countries of the world. But out of these only 8-10 countries have regular workers. Statistics from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) show that 97 percent of workers sent abroad go to just in 10 countries. Over the past five years, workers have gone to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Brunei, Mauritius and some European countries.
The number of Bangladeshi workers abroad is not known to anyone, but the BMET has an account of how many workers have been given employment permits abroad. Of the 168 countries on BMET’s list, 31 have not seen any workers leave in the last five years.
From 1976, information on sending workers abroad is available with BMET. In the last 48 years, this government agency has issued clearance to more than 1 crore 60 lakh 75 thousand workers. Among them, Saudi Arabia is at the top. About 36 percent of the total employment went to the country. It has increased over the years. The latest data of the last 5 years shows that about 55 percent of the workers who left the country for work went to Saudi Arabia.
After Saudi Arabia, more Bangladeshis have gone to the United Arab Emirates. 16 percent of the total immigrants went to this country. Third is Oman followed by Malaysia. Currently sending workers to Oman is stopped. According to the data, 5 percent of Bangladeshi workers have gone to Singapore and Qatar.
According to the foreign employment data, there are 8 countries where an average of more than 10,000 workers have gone every year. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Oman, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan. Six of these countries are from the Middle East. In addition, Italy and Romania have seen increases in worker departures over the past two years. And there are a total of 17 countries where an average of more than 5,000 workers have been sent annually.
A drop in labor turnover in a Middle Eastern country will have a negative impact on the manpower export sector. No workers could go to the UAE due to the closure for the past four consecutive years. Worker migration to the country has increased over the past two years. Oman announced visa ban for Bangladeshis at the end of 2023. There was a regular worker going to Maldives. Due to the large number of illegal workers, the country’s labor market is closed to foreigners. As a result, no new Bangladeshi workers could be sent there for the last four years. From this year, workers have been sent to Maldives again. However, workers have been going to Malaysia for two years. Out of this, more than three and a half lakhs have gone last year. Earlier, the country’s labor market was closed since 2018.
A study was conducted by BMET in 2018 on the possibility of sending workers to the labour market of 53 countries. Although the government has not been able to create a new labour market for many years. In the last 15 years, the government has increased employment in 168 countries from 97 countries. In most of these countries, workers are going in handfuls. Those concerned with the immigration sector feel that the country’s immigration sector will be at a great risk if the new potential market is not caught.
According to the data of the private research organization Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (Ramru), the Gulf Island state of Bahrain had a moderate recruitment of manpower from Bangladesh before 2020, but it has decreased to 1 in 2023. As a result, the amount of remittances of the country has also had a negative impact. In 2016, 72,167 people migrated from Bangladesh to Bahrain, but after that the migration from Bangladesh to Bahrain started to decrease drastically. According to BMET, migration is not possible due to lack of demand letters in the country.
According to immigration experts, more than one and a half crore people of Bangladesh are working legally in different countries of the world as migrants for short and long term. Only 0.5 percent of them are in Italy and 0.13 percent are in the UK. The main destination of the rest is various countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Under various bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding, Bangladesh is sending manpower legally to various European countries – which is insignificant in terms of numbers. Italy and Greece have signed MoUs with Bangladesh. Discussions are ongoing with Romania, Kosovo and Bosnia. But related sources say that even though the bilateral agreement or memorandum of understanding has been signed, Bangladesh is not able to fulfill its various conditions in many cases.
Mohammad Jalal Uddin Sikder, a member of the Center for Migration Studies and a teacher at North South University, told, “The research done in the country and abroad on the labor market of Bangladesh in the public and private sectors is little compared to the need. As a result, we do not have a clear idea about the exact demand for skilled Bangladeshi workers in various sectors in Europe and whether there will be any change in this demand in the future.
He said, “In this case, we have no alternative to our own research. There is a huge demand for skilled labor in the European market. A large number of manpower from neighboring India goes to European countries, but the number from Bangladesh is negligible. Because we have lack of skilled manpower. This is because technical education is not well developed in our country. Again, the attitude of the parents towards technical education is also responsible to a large extent.
BRAC’s associate director Shariful Hasan said, ‘If a certain number of workers go to a country regularly, that country can be called a labor market. Accordingly, the labor market of Bangladesh is limited among 15-20 countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
He said, “For years, the number of workers has been looked at without looking at the quality. Maybe two million people can’t be sent to any European country. But if 2 lakh workers can be sent there, then the expatriate income that will come from that country is not less than sending 7-8 lakh people to the Middle East.
Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment Ministry Secretary Md. Ruhul Amin said, ‘Immigration is a complex issue. It does not depend on a single country. Although there are many complications, we have to work to solve them. Both sides have agreed that the MoU can be signed with Jordan at any time. It is almost at the final stage with Mauritius, and the process is going on with Malta.
Ruhul Amin said, for now our work on these has reached its final stage in the last three-four months. Besides, the sending of skilled workers to Russia has already started on a limited basis. Hopefully, Russia will be a good market for us in the future.
He said, “After stopping sending workers to Brunei for a long time, it is starting again. I have also received a demand letter to send workers. It will open even if it is closed in Mauritius. Sending workers to Kuwait has stopped. But the process of sending nurses has gone a long way. They sent us a demand for nurses. We have also sent the necessary data, those who are interested in going for graduation or diploma in nursing, we have sent their information officially with the help of health education department. Hopefully, we can send nurses to Kuwait.
According to the data of BMET, in 2023 Bangladesh record more than 1.3 million workers went abroad. Out of this, skilled labor migration rate was about 25 percent and unskilled labor about 50 percent. Last year, 11.35 lakh migrants went abroad. There were about 250,000 skilled workers among them.

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