That only one-fifth of the expatriates working in the country are believed to be registered with Bangladesh Investment Development Authority is contentious. The actual number of foreign employees would perhaps be half a million and the amount being drained out every year may exceed US$5.0 billion, as different estimates suggest.
There are grievances, as expressed in public domain, against hiring foreigners when millions of locals are jobless. That reaction is still nowhere near xenophobia seen in the so-called developed countries. Sadly, many Bangladeshi expatriates experience harassment and repression in a number of destinations.
Thanks to Bangladeshi hospitality, foreigners in this country rather enjoy freedom to work without permit in innumerable cases and are further entitled to undeclared exemption from taxes.
Such employment, employers claim, is because of the industry demand and of course skills not matched by locals. Others, especially jobseekers, term the recruitment process biased towards foreign workers, given the choice of recruiters and influence of some foreign consultants/professionals at the top.
Unfortunately, this issue has not been objectively assessed by any authority in Bangladesh.
The argument of 'missing middle' in the country's industrial management has come under question once Bangladeshi executives are capturing top positions of multinational companies. Why can't they lead local companies such as export-oriented garment units and textile mills?
It's natural at the initial level of the growth of the industries that foreigners would be hired for technical jobs, for hardly any Bangladeshi had had the required skills. That was not any discredit for the locals. Unless an industry is in operation, why should people take training in that particular skill?
The garment industry has come of age and the entrepreneurs should have built quality workers and managers.
The Bangladeshi youths, it's been proven over the decades, do not lack in their talent and skills if provided training. The engineers who graduated from the BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) are efficiently working at reputed Western companies and universities. So do medical professionals abroad.
The country's status as one of the largest destinations of outsourced IT (information technology) services is the testament to at least a minimum level of skills required for the jobs. The technicians working in workshops, commercial establishments and at household level, demonstrate how fast the youngsters acquire the skills. Even Bangladeshi migrants who earn remittances by offering manual labour gain certain efficiency through their working experience.
For their reliance on foreigners, the Bangladeshi employers blame lack of employability of local professionals, particularly their level of excellence, language skills and sophistication.
So, it's not the issue of natural talent and adaptability that divides Bangladeshis and foreigners in filling up the vacancies of positions, especially in export-oriented sectors.
We all know what it is. Now, the country has no options other than focussing on education - for ensuring proper learning at schools and serious studies at universities. Institutions have to be told that they must ensure that a youth had the knowledge and capacity required after graduation.
Instead of criticising employment of foreigners in Bangladesh industries, students may rather be taught by high quality foreign teachers at the country's institutions to get them ready for both local and global competitions.
Recruitment of foreign teachers, workers or any professionals shouldn't be a matter of controversy in today's world. The Bangladeshis are not a parochial nation. Migration for education, jobs and business shouldn't be affected by ultra-nationalism witnessed in anti-foreigner rhetoric by a section of politicians worldwide. The Bangladesh youth can benefit most from free movement of labour, if allowed, under the World Trade Organisation regime.
However, this problem in Bangladesh shows a lack of transparency in hiring and also governance deficiency in regulating the employment sectors. Neither the respective companies acknowledge the number of foreign workers and professionals they bring in nor can the authorities concerned identify them and stop illegal transfer of money.
Time has come to list reasons for employing foreigners instead of making blanket criticism aimed at 'outsiders'. Authorities of a sovereign country must deal with the issue upfront to create a just employment regime both for foreigners and Bangladeshis.
For attracting foreign investment and enhancing the country's global exposure, expatriate professionals are expected to live and work in Bangladesh in peace with legal safety coverage. They, too, need to be duly brought under the national tax net.