Almost half of the foreign nationals working in the country's readymade garments (RMG) sector are Indians while Sri Lanka and China represent 25 and 13 per cent of the foreign workers here respectively.
A survey of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) revealed the numbers. The study found out that only 177 foreign expats are working in the sector.
However, this study may not be representational of the real picture as only 52 industries out of 4,560 provided the data BGMEA sought.
The new executive body of BGMEA asked the member industries to provide information about foreign workers in the RMG industries on 29 April.
They specifically sought information such as name and post of foreign workers, their departments, nationality and monthly salary and how long they have been working. BGMEA asked the members to provide the information by 10 May.
But, the apex body of garments industries did not officially disclose the survey result as only a tiny fraction of member industries provided the information.
Many entrepreneurs of RMG sector said foreign experts work in most of the export-oriented middle and big industries. So, they think that the number is much higher than 177.
BGMEA sources said, other than Indian and Chinese citizens, 8 per cent workers are South Korean, 1.7 per cent Turkish and 1 per cent Pakistani.
Ananta Group, for an example, employs 28,000 workers, with 30-35 of them being foreign nationals.
Ananta Group’s sister concern Ananta Denim Technology Limited’s manager director Sharif Jahir told Prothom Alo, “We are manufacturing some new specialised products such as suit, bra and panty. We don’t have local experts on these products. So we have to depend on foreign experts. They mainly oversee technical sides of the production.”
Among the foreign workers, 27.1 per cent are involved with production related activities while 9 per cent are involved with sewing, 11 per cent with quality control, 6 per cent in marketing, 5 per cent with research and 1 per cent with merchandising.
Besides, 5.6 per cent are working with creating sample and 4 per cent are working as technicians.
BGMEA senior vice president Faisal Samad said they want to get a real picture of the number of foreign workers in the RMG sector.
“We want to understand how many foreign experts are working and in which fields of the sector. Once we get a clear picture, we would be able to work accordingly, including giving training to local people so that they can get into these jobs. Thus, we will be able to stem the flow of outward remittance,” he added.
Faisal Samad also said that foreign experts working in the RMG sector get a monthly salary of Tk 500,000 to Tk 700,000 on an average.
“We would send a letter to the members asking for that data again since only a few provided the information we had sought,” Faisal added.
US based Pew Research Center in a study last year said that annual outward remittance flow from Bangladesh amount to $2 billion. Foreigners working in different sectors including RMG industries take away that amount of money.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told parliament on last February that as many as 85,486 foreign nationals work in Bangladesh. Among them 35,386 are Indians and 13,268 are Chinese.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf.