This paper carried a news item on Sunday etching, we presume, a frown at the forehead, especially of those in charge of overseas employment of Bangladeshi workers and their welfare in workplace. Although in recent times, we have gotten used to hearing the news of returnee women workers filing past a Brac help desk at the airport, but little did we realise that a good source of inward remittance was going to be undercut to such an extent!
Here comes the shocking news: In the past 10 months women's overseas jobs suffered a jolt in the shape of drop by as much as 18 per cent!
According to the data of Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), 81000 women workers went abroad on employment during January-October period compared with 100,136 who had gone overseas in the corresponding period last year.
But the reasons attributed are confusing, if not contradictory. On the one hand, it is claimed by sector insiders that 'strict selection process for Saudi-bound migrants' may have caused the drop in the number of outgoing job-seekers. On the other hand, you come by a reiteration of the all-too-known pattern of maltreatment at the receiving end: 'Batches of women have returned home from Saudi Arabia this year having been exploited at workplaces.'
Actually, both the factors-strict selection procedure and worker exploitation in host country -- may have triggered the sharp decline in female employment overseas. Strict selection drill if pursued with an eye to meeting job specifications including imparting a set of skills is an imperative task at our end. In the long run, filtration and grooming processes will help raise our stocks with the importing countries. But in the name selection, the job-seekers should not be harassed by too many interviews as has been complained of. But crucially, all this should be reciprocated at the host-end. And there it is a question of behavioural changes on its part viz. giving female worker the dignity she deserves.
The plight of our women employees overseas never passes below the radar; on the contrary, it pops on the screen every now and then, as something of a live concern. In spite of that, it faces attention deficit; worse still, the approach is ad-hoc lacking proactive policy for a gender-sensitive deal required to be struck with host countries.
It has been years since we have been sending women workers overseas so that the number of countries hosting them has reached above 20. So we can explore newer destinations rather than being hooked on to a few countries.
Barring a few countries, we don't get negative feedback from the rest of the host nations of guest workers -- about performance or professional drawbacks on the part of our workers, or conversely their complaints of mental or physical torture suffered at the hands of their employers.
In a medley of statistics the main tune of the music or the moral of the story may get lost and our attempt to get to the bottom of the problem and come to grips with it, may stray into shooting at a moving target.
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