Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) and Recruiting Agency Oikya Parishad office bearers said that they were facing many challenges sending workers to Saudi Arabia despite there being a demand.

According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), more than 1 million workers, a record, took overseas jobs in 2017. The next year, the number of new overseas workers decreased to 734,000. Around 700,000 workers went abroad in 2019.

There is no visible initiative to restore the pandemic-hit overseas employment. Sending workers to Malaysia has been halted since September 2018. Concerned officials of the two countries failed to bring any outcome despite a series of meetings.

The United Arab Emirate (UAE) labour market has been limited since September 2012. A move in last year to open the market wide did not roll out due to the pandemic. Last year, only 1,082 workers from Bangladesh went to the UAE. This year, UAE hosted only 4,690 workers from Bangladesh. The pandemic also impacted on the labour markets in Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon.

According to Bangladesh Bank, the flow of remittance started to grow even before the Covid hit the country. However, the flow has been declining since the last three months. In August last year, Bangladesh received $ 1.96 billion remittance. In the corresponding month this year, expatriate workers sent $ 1.81 billion. Earlier in July and June, they sent $ 1.87 billion and $ 1.94 billion respectively. Remittance flow during the two months was also less than the corresponding months of last year.

Effective and sustainable approaches are now crucial to face the dwindling overseas labour markets. We need to emphasise three factors: training workers properly to meet the host countries’ demands, exploring new overseas labour markets and sectors, and strengthening foreign missions’ supervision so that the expatriate workers do not face harassment. Bangladesh needs to break the bureaucratic red-tape by boosting diplomacy with Malaysia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other host countries were demands for Bangladeshi workers are high. Avoiding any blame game, all the stakeholders in the overseas labour markets should work in a coordinated way. If necessary, a taskforce could be formed.

On priority basis, people involved in human trafficking in the name of sending workers abroad should be brought to book. They not only ruin the life of the overseas job aspirants, but also tarnish the image of Bangladesh.

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