Foreigners in Bangladesh formally remit $2b a year

Razib Ahmed . Dhaka | Update:

Foreigners in Bangladesh formally remit $2b a yearForeigners working in Bangladesh repatriate $2 billion or Tk 165 billion a year through formal channels, according to Pew Research Center.

However, unofficial estimate shows, Indian nationals working in the country alone take home Tk 320 billion annually.

Around 85,000 foreigners legally work in Bangladesh, mostly in the export-oriented readymade garment (RMG) sector. But, industry insiders say, the number is much higher as many work without a valid work permit and they remit the money through illegal channels.

In 2016, an aggregate amount of $2 billion was sent home by foreigners, said the US-based Pew Research Center, which carried out its study based on the World Bank data.

The leading countries that receive remittances from Bangladesh include China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the USA, Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand, Japan, Norway and the UK.

Referring to finance minister AMA Muhith, at a recent roundtable organised by Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute president Farooq Sobhan said the Indian nationals working in Bangladesh send home Tk 320 billion.

Asked why so many foreigners get jobs, former president of Bangladesh Employers Federation and apparel sector businessman Fazlul Haque said to Prothom Alo, "The main reason is lack of job-oriented education and skills. The educational institutions do not teach as per the demands of the industry."

"The young generation run after general education. But in the private sector, technical education is more important. So, young people are not getting jobs despite obtaining degrees and certificates. As a result, there is a growing frustration," he added.

An official number of the foreigners who remit money came from home minister Asaduzzaman Khan when he told parliament in February that 85,486 foreign nationals work in Bangladesh.

India leads the pack with 35,386 people while China comes next with 13,286, according to official figure.

Japan has 4,093 of its citizens while there are 4,093 Koreans, 3,395 Malaysians and 3,777 Sri Lankans working in Bangladesh, the home minister then said.

A significant number of people from Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany, Singapore and Turkey are also working in different sectors in Bangladesh.

There are allegations that a large number of foreign citizens work in Bangladesh on tourist visas. These people remain excluded in the official data. According to the Bangladesh Tourism Board, as many as 750,000 foreigners came to Bangladesh in 2017.

According to World Bank data, Sri Lanka has no significant remittances sent from Bangladesh. However, there are many Sri Lankans working in the garment sector.

The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) and the NGO Affairs Bureau generally issue work permits to the foreign nationals.

Most of these are issued by BIDA, which says that 3,171 foreigners were issued work permits in 2017 while another 4,113 had their permits renewed.

BEPZA officials said there are 2,500 foreign citizens working in the country's export processing zones and the foreigners get paid two or three times the Bangladeshis do.

In the last one month, this correspondent spoke to a number of big organisations to know what roles the foreigners play. It was found that the foreigners mostly work in production management, machineries management, quality control and mid-level management of the organisation. Many foreigners work in the merchandising and buying houses.

BEPZA officials said foreigners hold top positions in technical and product manufacturing departments at the factories in the export processing zones. Some also appoint foreign nationals as the managing director or a director.

"There is a lack of English knowledge among our educated people.They do not have any practical knowledge either," said ACI Group chairman M Anis Dowla.

In reference to hiring a welding supervisor for one of his factories, he said, "An engineer applying for the position of welding supervisor did not know how to do welding. It's because he had not learnt it practically. Even I learnt welding hands on."

Pran-RFL Group director (marketing) Kamruzzaman Kamal said, "Our students are more into general education. The country now needs people for the technical jobs, but we hardly get people with technical education."

Many entrepreneurs have expressed their views that higher education after the higher secondary level should be limited and more people should be made familiar with the technical education sector.

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) president Abul Kashem said, "A country like Germany gets its people ready for jobs as per the demand of the industry. We should also adopt such a policy here."

* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Quamrul Hassan

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