The Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (BOESL), the country's lone official channel to send workers abroad has almost become a non-performing entity. Since its inception in 1984, it could send only 18,936 skilled workers to South Korea and 49,537 female garment workers to Jordan.
Sending of the outbound workers through this lone recruitment agency of the government has remained almost stagnant for years due to lack of proper strategy and marketing mechanism. Despite having potentials, the BOESL is failing to send adequate number of workers abroad.
According to a recent research document prepared by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), BOESL has higher organisational capacity than the private recruitment agencies. But its contribution to overall migration is 2.0 per cent only, although it has the reputation of sending quality manpower to the overseas destinations at affordable migration cost. So it should focus more on market expansion in different countries, says the document. The research document recommended that BOESL should have a centralised Information Technology (IT) division, research and development wing, and regional and branch offices to perform its functions more effectively.
In fact, lengthy procedures in the official channel prevent the organisation from going for aggressive marketing, like the private recruiters. As a result, the outflow of workers through the agency is very slow. As it is a government-run agency, it needs to go through some procedures in case of expansion of its activities.
While the private recruiting agencies can go through many channels and frame various strategies to explore manpower demand and send workers on a large scale, BOESL cannot do the same, as it has to follow the procedures laid down by the government. A BOESL official claims that the government agency ensures cent per cent transparency as well as safe and orderly migration. As such, it can not engage any intermediaries to explore demand and send workers.
BOESL sends skilled and semi-skilled workers at a cost of Tk 52,250 and Tk 34,310 each respectively, and skilled professionals at Tk 86,850. It also sends female garment workers to Jordan at only Tk 17,750 each. So far, it has sent workers to 27 countries. But except South Korea and Jordan, it sends workers to other countries occasionally.
In fact, public perception about private manpower agents is in no way positive. The media have been highlighting from time to time the sordid plight of innocent jobseekers caused by fraudulent activities of a section of manpower agents.
Cases of dishonesty and fraudulence are aplenty in the activities of many such agents who also charge exorbitant fees from their 'clients'. The death of many jobseekers in mountains, high seas, deserts and freezer vans and their deportation and detention in foreign jails could hardly deter the unrelenting misdeeds of a section of the manpower agents.
Still, it would perhaps be unfair not to recognise the contribution of private recruiting agencies to manpower export and steady growth of the country's remittance earnings.
It should be noted here that most manpower importing countries are interested more in employing skilled workers but Bangladesh is not in a position to supply them in large numbers. It is time for the authorities concerned to take serious actions to create a sizeable manpower, trained in trades that are in high demand in those countries.
Worrying signals are, in fact, coming from the country's manpower export front. Market for our unskilled labourers is getting thinner day-by-day. Many recession-hit countries are shutting doors to prospective migrants.
There is a good demand for trained nurses in the developed countries like USA and Canada. Eastern Europe is in dire need of masons, carpenters, electricians etc. For lack of proficiency in English language, skilled workers are not able to find jobs in these countries. This is a serious weakness and a long-felt one, but the government did not take due initiative in this regard, so far.
According to official statistics, there are some 7.0 million overseas Bangladeshi workers and 4.0 million of them are employed in the Middle Eastern countries. Though there are efforts to explore new markets for manpower, the traditional markets in the Middle East are considered vital for the migrant workforce.
The manpower export sector deserves to be protected from all harm so that it can flourish and add substantially to the country's foreign currency reserve. Activities of the unscrupulous agents must be dealt with strictly.
On its part, the government agency - BOSEL -- should introduce a proper strategy to send more workers, and set an example to the private recruiters in terms of promoting successful and safe migration. The agency could be a role model for private sector recruiters as its success rate is higher in terms of safe migration.
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