When all the unwanted developments during a pandemic-hit year soured the mood of policymakers, a healthy remittance inflow emerged as the one of the few comfort zones for them.
In fact, the remittance income was more than what many had expected. The amount remitted back home by the migrant workers, according to an unofficial estimate, was 17 per cent higher in the just concluded year than that of 2019.
However, it is now apparent that a sizeable part of the remittance earnings had come at the expense of jobs of thousands of migrant workers. A proportionate number would reveal the story behind the higher inflow of remittance in a year that had brought all the misfortunes for the world. In fact the year 2020 was a year of despair, deep frustration and disconnect.
It is now beyond doubt that there was a negative flow of manpower from Bangladesh in the just concluded year. The number of workers returning home from abroad, mostly from the Gulf countries, was far greater than that of outbound workers.
According to a report, titled 'Migration Trend Report from Bangladesh-2020', prepared by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), a total of 183, 682 workers went abroad, taking up employment between January 01 and November 19 of the year 2020. The report said 326,758 workers returned home between the months of April and November, of the same year. A newspaper report however put the number of returnee workers in 2020 at over 0.6 million.
The returnee workers had either remitted all the money before departing the employing countries or carried the money individually. Thus, bulk of the remittance inflows came from the workers who were sent back home or lost jobs during the peak Covid-time.
In such a situation, many tend to fear that the remittance inflow during the year 2021 would decline drastically, primarily due to the negative flow of migrant workers. The RMMRU estimates that there was more than 71 per cent drop in overseas jobs in 2020. According to its estimate, about 0.7 million Bangladeshi workers went abroad taking up jobs in 2019.
However, there is a silver lining in the horizon. The development of a number of vaccines might prove a game changer in a situation like this. The world is expected to return to normalcy, at least partially, by the middle of the year 2021.
But the countries that usually hire Bangladeshi workers in large numbers might take a considerable period of time in reemploying people. This remains an uncertain area. The international oil price will be a major factor behind any behaviourial change of the Gulf nations. The rise in oil price might change the mood of most oil-rich nations in the matters of economic reconstruction work.
However, with the pandemic easing, there will be a rise in demand for workers from the Middle Eastern countries. But the recruitment might take some time. In that case, the outflow of workers from Bangladesh is unlikely to take place to any notable extent in 2021. Thus, in terms of remittance inflow, the year might disappoint the country's policymakers. Any diplomatic effort may not also prove very effective in this area. So, the risks remain as far as country's remittance inflow is concerned.