Saudis set to employ big number of Bangladeshis

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=129633&date=2011-03-18

Saudis set to employ big number of Bangladeshis
KSA team due in city to hold ‘recruitment’ talks

Syful Islam

Saudi Arabia is set to end its “unofficial” freeze on large-scale recruitment of unskilled workers from Bangladesh, boosting hopes that Dhaka will reclaim its top position in the Kingdom’s job market, officials said Thursday.

The Middle Eastern country almost halted employing Bangladeshi unskilled workers for the last three years, raising speculation about a diplomatic rough patch between the two majority Muslim nations.

Riyadh had recruited more than 2.5 million Bangladeshi workers since it opened its job doors to Dhaka in 1976. The number accounts for more than 40 per cent of the overseas jobs Bangladeshis have found in the past three and half a decades.

But in the last three years, total recruitment in the Kingdom came down to a few thousands. The head of the last caretaker government and the current prime minister visited Riyadh during the period, but there has been no progress in recruitment.

Officials said a delegation of Saudi Arabian National Recruitment Committee (Sanarcom) will visit Dhaka in the first week of April to discuss with the government and local recruiters in a bid to resume hiring manpower from Bangladesh “in a full swing”.

“I am hopeful the visit of Sanarcom delegation will help regain the lost manpower job market,” President of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) Mohammed Abul Basher said.

Mr. Basher said more than 250,000 workers, mainly female house-maid, drivers and farm labourers can get jobs in the Kingdom in the next two years. “We hope the recruitment may begin as early as June.”

Last year only 7,069 Bangladeshis have found jobs in Saudi Arabia. The figure was only 1.8 per cent of the country’s total overseas employment in 2010.

Mr. Basher said Qatar will also employ tens of thousands of construction workers from Bangladesh as the tiny Gulf kingdom plans to build nine state-of-the-art stadiums in the next ten years to host the World Cup football in 2022.

“They will require a huge number of foreign workers to construct the stadiums and build other infrastructures related to the showpiece soccer event. We are hopeful Qatar will recruit bulk of the foreign workers from Bangladesh,” he said.

“Once Saudis resume recruiting from Bangladesh, Kuwait and Qatar will also follow suit. These Muslim nations, all member of Gulf Cooperation Council, largely toe Saudi Arabia’s policy in terms of overseas recruitment,” he added.

Last year only 48 Bangladeshis get job in Kuwait despite soldiers from Bangladesh fought in the first Gulf War in 1990 to liberate the Emirate. Qatar recruited 12,085 out of the total 390,702 Bangladeshis went abroad to work in 2010.

“Saudi Arabia has already announced building a new industrial city near Jeddah, which will be home to 2.5 million people. They need Bangladeshi workers to build the city and all the factories there in time,” said top recruiter Reaz -ul- Islam.

“They need both skilled and unskilled people. Because of this new demand, we hope this year more than 500,000 Bangladeshis will get jobs abroad – some 80 per cent of them will be employed in the Middle Eastern countries,” he added.

Expatriates’ Welfare Secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan said they are waiting for a good piece of news from Riyadh. “We are working hard to restart manpower export to Saudi Arabia in full swing,” he said.”

From 1976 to 2010 a total of 2,580,198 Bangladeshi went to Saudi Arabia with jobs, 479,619 to Kuwait and 167,808 to Qatar representing 40 per cent and seven and two per cent of the country’s total overseas employment respectively.

The unofficial Saudi freeze on large-scale recruitment has exacted a heavy toll on Bangladeshi overseas job opportunities and affected the country’s economic health. Last year the number came down to five-year low.

A record 875,055 Bangladeshis found jobs abroad in 2008. But the number drastically came down in the last two years when only 476,278 and 390,702 got overseas jobs.

The fall has also impacted on the country’s remittance in the current fiscal year. In the first eight months to February, remittance inflow posted a meagre 2.49 per cent growth, creating a crisis of foreign exchange components among private banks.

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