Facilitating expat workers

Published: May 03, 2019 22:24:50 | Updated: May 05, 2019 22:23:38

The decision of the government to gradually bring all migrant workers under insurance cover appears to strike a positive note in as much as it aims to mitigate the difficulties faced by expatriate workers and their families arising out of ailments, accidents, loss of job, and also death. It is surprising that the authorities, namely the expatriate welfare ministry, took so long to finally come up with the move to ease the stay of a million Bangladeshis toiling in foreign lands in difficult conditions. The Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IDRA) is reportedly at the final stage of framing the insurance policy that will address the common problems that expatriate workers face during their stay overseas.

When it comes to facilitating the expat workers, there is indeed more to it beyond what can be delivered by a comprehensive insurance policy. In fact, ever since workers' migration began to gather momentum decades back, some of the critical issues pertaining to safe migration, affordable costs, job security, welfare etc were, sadly, not seen as constituting integral elements in the very structure of the migration process. Ensuring safe migration and security of the workers in overseas work places should have formed the very basis of the migration narrative. But this has not been the case, and one fears the situation has hardly improved even to this day. Although the government revised the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Policy in 2016 with some measures and actions that did sound appropriate, the fact remains that a policy is no more than an expression of intent unless it is implemented in its true spirit. On paper, the policy is all good. It envisages directives for promoting and ensuring safe migration, security and welfare of the workers. It also contains a separate chapter on migration of female workers. The key issues in the policy include ensuring safe migration, protection of workers and their family members, ensuring facilities and welfare of the migrant workers at their job stations, proper planning for labour migration and integration of migration and national development.  

Now that more than two years have passed since the framing of the policy, is there any sign of noticeable improvement? Given the prevailing situation, particularly in view of the harrowing tales of women migrants in recent times, one may tend to look at the policy provisions as more holistic than functionally applicable. The key question remains how the government plans to go about redressing the difficulties in practical terms. This is because the problems associated with workers' migration are not limited to their harassment at the hands of the syndication of private recruiters or the difficult working conditions and harassments they are at times so shockingly exposed to.

Unfortunately, measures to redress these have been pathetically poor. It is by now well known that despite the intent of relieving workers of their plight at a reduced cost of migration with required welfare benefits in their workplaces, the response, so far, has remained far short of what was expected. The slow and lackluster move has already dampened the confidence of jobseekers. There is thus the need for earnest efforts to work out a comprehensive plan of action to facilitate workers' migration.

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