Most of those who travel overseas from Bangladesh for employment are ordinary workers. Unfortunately, they have to face innumerable hassles, both before leaving the country and after reaching their destinations. Many of them go abroad for bringing affluence to their families even by selling ancestral property and possessions. Their sacrifices notwithstanding, the lot of countless workers remains unchanged or even worsens due to various adversities facing them beyond the country's borders. These include losing their jobs, facing lay-offs, or retrenched on account of diseases or accidents. Many of them have to spend their remaining lives along with their families amid untold sufferings. Innumerable migrant workers have to endure such cruel fate in the absence of state-sponsored welfare programmes and schemes like insurance policies. Many manpower exporting countries of the world have made insurance coverage mandatory for their outbound workers, but sadly Bangladesh still lags behind in this area. Notably, around 10 million migrant Bangladeshi workers are currently employed in 161 countries of the world.
Against this backdrop, the government took an initiative last year to provide some succour to the luckless workers caught in the cycle of misery and setbacks. The public sector Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IDRA) prepared a draft guideline for mandatory insurance coverage of the migrant workers in April 2017 in order to protect them from unanticipated risks. An amended version of that draft policy now provides for up to Taka 0.5 million compensation for injuries or deaths while working abroad. If a worker is terminated within three months of appointment, he or she would get up to Taka 0.4 million. If any worker loses job, a monthly unemployment allowance of maximum Taka 25 thousand would be provided for up to three months, the draft policy says.
The initiative is undoubtedly a laudable one, which, in fact, should have been taken much earlier. The draft policy has recently been approved by the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment after thorough examination and consultations with relevant stakeholders. The approved and amended draft will now go to the 'Central Rating Committee' - the highest authority for approving policies related to insurance. If approved, this would be made effective by IDRA under the title of 'Overseas Workers' Insurance Policy'.
The amended draft policy reportedly has three components, viz. life insurance, health insurance and insurance for loss of job. It provides for uniform premium rates for all insured workers irrespective of their age. If the insured worker dies during the period of insurance coverage, his nominee would get 100 per cent policy benefit. If two eyes or limbs of the insured worker are lost, even then 100 per cent policy benefit would be obtained. The migrant worker would also receive insurance payment if he loses his job permanently. The amount would be determined by taking into account the number of months he worked before losing the job. These benefits would not be available if a worker voluntarily gives up job, if s/he is terminated because of misconduct and unethical activities, or due to inefficiency, illegal appointment or falsification of documents and information.
This kind of initiative is undoubtedly laudable, but it needs to be expedited because of the urgency of the situation in the context of acute sufferings of migrant workers. If it is implemented, not only will the country's overseas workers get protection, but also the interest of general people in overseas employment will also rise. The sooner it is implemented, the better for the outbound job-seekers.
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