Overseas employment has increased over time since the initiative to send Bangladeshis to different countries at the end of seventies. The flow of labour migration was intact till 2017 despite the Iraq war and political unrest in the Middle East. But labour export fell by 27 per cent in 2018. According to the statistics of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 734,181 jobs seekers went abroad for work in 2018. However, the number was 108,525 in 2017. Economists and manpower experts warned earlier about the situation, but there is no sign that the government took any effective measures in this regard.
Overseas employment has increased our foreign reserves and boosted our economy. Although around 8 million of our people are working overseas, the livelihood of around 40 million people is directly linked to the sector. Three major overseas labour markets are in a bad condition. Around 12 per cent people in Saudi Arabia are unemployed. The prospect of labour export to the oil rich country is very thin except for a few sectors. Although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened its labour market, the country is hiring only housemaids. Malaysia stopped hiring workers since September last year.
Under the circumstances, the government was to explore new labour markets and to create skilled manpower. The labour market to Iraq has opened up as the situation there is becoming normal. The demand for women garments workers is increasing in Jordan. The workers who have already migrated there are getting better facilities. There are new employment opportunities in Japan, Thailand and some countries in Africa. Unskilled workers will have little opportunity in old as well as new labour markets.
If we want to send workers abroad, we have to create skilled manpower as per demand. Expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment secretary said overseas jobs seekers are being trained up at 70 centres across the country. The jobs seekers are provided training for a temporary period. We have to review how far this training will meet the global demand. The amount a Bangladeshi worker earns in a foreign country, a foreign worker in Bangladesh earns manifold.
The government needs to assess why the overseas job markets for Bangladeshis are shrinking while the demand for foreign workers in Bangladesh is increasing. It is clear that our education cannot create skilled manpower even for the country. How will this education create skilled manpower for the overseas job market? In the age of globalisation, the doors cannot be shut. We have to up skill of our manpower in such a way so that they can compete in the local and global market.
If we build up skilled manpower, the remittance will not fall despite fall in the overseas employment. The government has to create skill manpower and explore new labour markets simultaneously.
Bangladeshi migrants face crises as the air fare for the Middle East countries have been raised. We think that the government should negotiate with the airlines authorities and find a plausible solution.