Following the decline in manpower recruitment by Middle Eastern nations, the country's overseas employment dropped by 18 per cent in the first six months of the current year. Countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Malaysia stopped hiring Bangladeshi workers since long.
Manpower recruiters say if the traditional job markets do not reopen soon, it will be difficult to maintain the previous uptrend in migration from Bangladesh. They also stressed the need for exploring job opportunities in prospective countries.
A total of 332,754 workers, according to reports, went abroad with jobs during the period between January and June this year as against 392,002 workers in the same period of the previous year. In 2018, Bangladesh sent 734,181 workers abroad, while in 2017, the number rose to 1,008,525.
Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait have slashed recruitment of foreign workers following a decline in development works there. Also, Saudi Arabia engaged more local workers in its different sectors as part of its policy reform. Besides, Oman is discouraging recruitment of low-skilled workers from Bangladesh.
However, an official report identified a number of reasons behind the dip in the country's overseas employment. It said illegal activities as well as cut-throat competition among recruiting agencies and inactive embassies are the main reasons for the cut in the number of overseas jobs for Bangladeshi workers.
The report also pointed to the problems created by the Rohingyas, lack of skilled and professional personnel, irresponsible attitude of bureaucrats, flaws in foreign policies and activities of a section of unscrupulous government officials as reasons behind such a nosedive in manpower exports.
It also revealed that the country's embassies in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and several Middle East countries have failed to perform their duties properly. It has been alleged that the embassies have even failed to counter the negative propaganda about the country. Many of the Bangladesh embassies are reluctant to implement the official policies, the report said.
The report also shed light on the money-making tendencies of the recruiting agencies in Bangladesh. These agencies are interested in earning money by making false promises to workers. Many interested in working abroad fall prey to their fraudulent activities. It also pointed out that the brokers working for licensed recruiting agencies are to be blamed equally.
Incidentally, Bangladeshis spend more than Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals to get jobs in overseas markets. An unhealthy competition among the recruiting agencies is increasing the cost of migration. Bangladeshis mainly depend on local agents while Indians rely on their private managements and the Lankans on registered recruiting agencies.
On the other hand, lack of funds and experts in the expatriate ministry and apathetic attitude of the foreign missions towards emigrant workers are a major deterrent to exploring new markets. For example, Sudan is a potential market for foreign workers because of massive investment from foreign companies there, some of which sent letters to Bangladesh expressing interest in hiring workers. But there is no Bangladesh mission there and the Bangladesh embassy in Cairo is blamed for not showing interest in this regard.
Analysts say if skills development programmes are implemented nationally, more and more skilled workers would get jobs abroad. Although the remittances earned by our expatriate workers is making a significant contribution to the county's foreign exchange earnings, the government has invested very little for developing their skills and facilities for the sector.
The government had formulated the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act in 2012. The Act incorporated a number of provisions to protect and implement the rights of the human trafficking victims by ensuring safe migration.
Yet surprisingly, the rules and regulations required for its enforcement are yet to be formulated. None of the concerned government agencies is aware of their respective responsibilities under the anti-trafficking legislation as the rules are simply not there.
There should be an integrated role of the Foreign Ministry, Expatriate Ministry and Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA). There are some countries where new manpower market can be discovered. Eastern Europe, Russia and some countries of Africa can be explored for suitable job opportunities.
The government should make frequent and proactive negotiations with its counterparts in countries that suffer from labour shortage. Also, the government should make efforts to minimise the cost of migration for overseas job seekers, as the Philippines and Sri Lanka did.
All said and done, there should be a government cell for finding out new markets and for preparing the human resources accordingly in collaboration with the relevant government agencies. A joint commission of the private and public sector could also could be formed.