The Daily Star, 07 January 2008
The new government faces strong challenges to maintain the existing labour markets already showing a downtrend due to the global financial crisis despite increase in overseas employment and remittance over the last two years.
The remittance sent by expatriate workers was around US$ 9 billion last year, up from US$ 6.55 billion in 2007, while around 8.75 lakh new workers have joined overseas jobs in 2008 and 8.32 lakh in 2007.
“The increase in employment abroad was mainly because Malaysia hired over four lakh workers and the UAE over five lakh workers over the last two years,” a high official at the ministry of expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment said.
Right now though, Malaysia’s recruitment quota is nearing its end while many job cuts are being apprehended due to the slowdown or halt of projects in the Middle East, Singapore and Malaysia, he pointed out.
He said, “We will be faced with a huge problem if a large number of jobs are terminated and these workers are forced to return home in bulk.”
Experts concerned say the new government should immediately take up the issue and, if needed, try to arrange alternative jobs.
“Bangladesh missions abroad might be able to persuade employers to not terminate all the workers at present,” said Ghulam Mustafa, president of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.
Rabab Fatima, Regional Representative for South Asia for the International Organisation for Migration says that as the global crisis persists, there is no alternative to searching for and exploring new job markets and develop the competitiveness of the workers.
Meanwhile a government official has said that the government should also focus on strengthening banking facilities for expatriates, to increase the remittance for the country, as an estimated 40 percent of remittances sent home come through hundis.
“The expatriates’ welfare ministry should get a full cabinet minister with the efficiency to negotiate strongly with foreign counterparts,” Abdul Alim, a recruiting agent, thinks.
Early last year, Saudi Arabia reduced the recruitment quota for Bangladeshi workers following a series of ‘media propaganda’ against workers from Bangladesh. Bahrain, meanwhile, has stopped issuing new work permits to labourers though they are still employing professionals.
Malaysia has also stopped hiring workers following malpractices in labour recruitment process, while Kuwait last year arrested and then sent back around 900 workers on charges of staging strikes.
On the other hand, South Korea and Romania, two lucrative job markets, have recently begun hiring workers from Bangladesh.
An official however pointed out that some Romanian employers are annoyed that a number of Bangladeshis fled the workplaces after joining their duties.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Libya has singed a memorandum of understanding (Mou) on labour. Also, in recent times, demand for labourers has been growing in countries like Sudan, Lebanon and Syria.
Some recruiting agents however think that the government is not responding properly to these possibilities.
“The new government must strengthen relations with the traditional job markets and create a strong market research cell to expand new overseas job markets,” said Abdul Alim, a recruiting agent.