Manpower export sector giving positive signal

News Analysis
Manpower export sector giving positive signal
Shahiduzzaman Khan

Amid a host of bad news, manpower export sector is otherwise giving a positive signal for Bangladesh. Overseas recruitment has, of late, made a major turnaround in a timely boost to the country’s flagging foreign exchange reserve. Data released by a government agency showed 52,929 Bangladeshis were hired by foreign nations during the month of September. The figure is a 24-month high and driven by a spurt in recruitment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and Singapore.

September’s figure records an 83 per cent growth over the same month last year when demand for Bangladesh workers had plummeted due to a spill-over effect of the global economic meltdown. The latest data are likely to allay fears about a looming balance of payment problem as forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Increased foreign recruitment is set to enhance remittance and replenish reserve in the coming months. Over 7.0 million Bangladeshis now work abroad. They sent home a record $11.65 billion in the 2010-11 fiscal year that ended in June.

Modest growth in remittance has been a strong positive factor in the wake of the country’s declining foreign exchange reserve, which fell below $10 billion last month amid a rising trade and current account deficit. According to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), 401,168 Bangladeshis have now found jobs abroad in the first nine months of the year, up more than 37 per cent over the same time last year.

The government had earlier set a target to send some half a million workers to foreign job markets, but the latest migration data indicates that the target would surpass by November. In fact, a sudden opportunity has been created for local workers in the Gulf nation of Oman due to an exodus of thousands of the Filipino and Indian labourers following political turmoil in the oil-rich Arab country. The UAE, where construction industry witnessed a booming time in recent months, accounted for half of the recruitment in September alone and also in the nine months.

The opportunity for Bangladeshi labourers has also increased following demand of wage-hike by key manpower exporters like India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, who accounted for a significant portion of the workforce. The sudden demand induced the authorities of foreign companies to look for alternative destinations like Bangladesh, where low-cost and otherwise disciplined labour force are available to meet the growing demand for such workers.

Reports say the number of foreign job holders is expected to record a significant rise in coming days as the Malaysian government has already announced an amnesty for thousands of illegal Bangladeshi workers. Saudi Arabia would soon start recruiting four categories of workers from the country. Demand for Bangladeshi workers in South East Asia remains also buoyant, especially in Singapore whose thriving shipbuilding industry has emerged as a key recruiter. Iraq is set to hire thousands of workers from Bangladesh as the reconstruction of the war-torn country gathers pace.

Regrettably, the ministry for expatriate’s welfare and the diplomats posted in important countries have not yet succeeded to ensure the rights of the migrant workers. They are also not able to take pragmatic steps to augment the manpower export, whereas Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India are successful in sending a large number of both skilled and unskilled workers abroad, after providing them with proper training.

Country’s overseas missions are not performing true to their potential. Reports of massive irregularities and mismanagements in these missions are coming to limelight very often. Foreign Minister Dipu Moni expressed her frustration recently at the state of affairs in Bangladesh embassies where lack of cooperation between the ambassador and different wings has blighted the prospects for expatriate jobs. The foreign minister was hundred per cent correct on what she said. The problem may be deeper than what she anticipated. These missions need a drastic overhaul.

Bangladesh missions abroad need to be much more proactive in searching out markets for manpower export in the old and new destinations. The positions of labour attaches and the like in the missions should go to the dedicated sorts of people. Truly capable persons must be assigned with these positions. The missions should devote greater time and energy to look after the interests of overseas Bangladeshi workers so that the latter can get their contracted or pledged remunerations and other monetary benefits from the foreign employers. All such steps, if pursued diligently, can notably increase the volume of remittances.

The government requires to be serious about expansion of the manpower export market. This is the single most source that earns the highest amount of foreign exchange. Further increase in remittance flows can be achieved by an assortment of policies in different sectors and not alone by setting up remittance houses abroad. While the latter can be a useful step, other policies do need to be pursued for augmenting remittance flows.

The export of skilled manpower including workers and professionals can lead to higher earnings and hence higher remittance flows because their wages would be substantially greater than those of the unskilled workers. But people in large numbers will require training for the purpose and this need can be met if the government operates a sufficient number of skill training centres across the country. The training can be imparted free of costs and those who receive such training will be able to pay gradually for their training costs, once they get jobs abroad and start earning.

The government does need to form a regulatory standing commission to expedite the manpower export and ensure the rights of the migrant workers. If this is done, the manpower sector — which was the highest foreign exchange earner — can help boost up the country’s economy to a large extent.


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