The Financial Express

Mismatch between workforce export and remittance inflow

| Updated: July 16, 2022 20:52:05

Mismatch between workforce export and remittance inflow

Amid gloomy developments such as high inflation, falling reserves and Covid resurgence, the workforce export has emerged as a silver lining on the horizon. Bangladesh, according to a report published in this paper on Thursday last, sent nearly 1.0 million workers abroad during the immediate past financial year (FY2021-22). The number was the highest in the last seven FYs. The official target was to send 0.4 million workers in FY'22, but higher demand, primarily from the Gulf countries, had helped the country send workers 2.5 times more. Gradual recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the rising oil prices together created a higher demand for workers.

The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) people are hopeful about sending a more significant number of workers abroad with jobs during the current FY as they expect conditions to become more favourable in the destination countries in the coming months. The restart of hiring of Bangladesh workers by Malaysia will provide yet another boost to manpower export under a deal reached between the two countries recently. There is, however, a not-so-palatable side of the manpower export story. In FY'22, migrant workers reportedly sent home 3.74 billion less than the previous year. It could be because of the decline in wages or use of the informal channels for remitting money.

Most Bangladeshi migrant workers are unskilled or semi-skilled, the supply of which is abundant in the global manpower market. Naturally, employers offer less to these workers. Other service conditions, in most cases, are also found to be unattractive. The wages are less in the Gulf countries where the concentration of Bangladeshi migrant workers is very high. Volumes have been said and written about developing the skill level of the would-be migrant workers keeping in view the demand in the most prospective manpower markets. The policymakers also talked about programmes and projects for skill development, but the relevant government/private agencies have done little in this respect. The availability of workers suitable for high-end jobs abroad is very few in numbers. Unless the number of such skilled workers is raised to a reasonable level, the remittance inflow would continue to be frustratingly low despite having a large workforce employed abroad.

The government, to encourage the migrant Bangladeshi workers to send their money back home through formal channels, has been offering a 2.5 per cent cash incentive. It had worked well until recently. But the ongoing exchange rate volatility might have encouraged them to use alternatives that would fetch them higher returns. Given the falling value of Taka, the government should come up with more attractive incentives, in different forms. There is no denying that expatriate workers have not received benefits matching their contributions to the national economy. The government might point to its inability to pay handsome benefits to the migrant workers because of resource constraints. But the investment of huge remittance money that flows into the country every year in productive areas would have offered the government greater manoeuvrability in this respect.

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