A DECLINE in the scope for overseas employment for Bangladeshi migrant workers in the past five months compared with the migration in the corresponding period of 2017, as New Age reported on Sunday, comes with worry as the inflow of remittances would continue to fall. The sign of a slump in remittances by migrant workers has already been there. While 4,53,165 workers went abroad in the first five months of 2017, the number declined, in the corresponding period this year, to 3,25,266. More than 10,00,000 workers went abroad in 2017, as Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training statistics show, up from 7,50,000 in 2016 and 5,50,000 in 2015 but the inflow of remittances declined to $13.52 billion in 2017, down from $13.60 billion in 2016 and $15.27 billion in 2015. While, as the bureau says, migration in 2107 was ‘rather abnormally high’ as Saudi Arabia recruited more than a half of the total male and female workers going abroad from Bangladesh, many of them are now returning, after being sexually and physically assaulted in their destination, landing at the Dhaka airport empty-handed, with harrowing tales of the torture they underwent there, almost every day.
While manpower bureau officials put the decline in the scope for migration to Arab countries down to recession there, many believe that the government was sending female workers to Arab countries without putting in efforts to create a congenial working atmosphere, for which diplomatic failure is largely blamed. A weak government negotiation with the destination countries in the Arab world, and employers there, is blamed for the abuse and vulnerability of migrant workers. The expatriate’s welfare and overseas employment minister, however, sought to brush aside the allegations of torture of and repression on migrant workers in destination countries and said that the government would take action on anyone lodging any complaints. But the stories that come out in the media should wake the government up to reality. More than 500 private recruiting agencies have been allowed to send female workers to Saudi Arabia after the government programme for registration for Saudi jobs received poor response. The proposition calls out the government on looking into why its programme failed, leaving the task to private agencies, with stories of prospective workers being cheated coming up. Yet, what remains largely ignored by the government is having plans to develop skills of prospective workers so that they can get paid higher wages.
While the government could have more focus on quality than quantity to stem the decline in the inflow of remittances in the wake of a declining scope for overseas employment, it must explore new destinations and have all the protocols set before sending workers there. The government must have programmes for expert guidance to match worker skills with overseas labour market requirements, arrange for safe homes there, have proper negotiations to ensure a safe workplace and to be in discussion with the diaspora besides having stepped up diplomatic negotiations with the destination countries and employers there before the situation declines further.
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