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3 January, 2019 12:11:40 PM


Bangladeshi migrants: Problems and prospects

Generally, migrant workers are not aware of their rights and responsibilities due to lack of education and awareness. And because of this, they can easily be deprived of their rights
Dr. Foqan Uddin Ahmed
Bangladeshi migrants: Problems 
and prospects

Migration is a significant feature of globalization. During the last decade, international migration of labour has increased tremendously.

It has become important source of employment and plays a vital role in reducing poverty in Bangladesh. Labour migration has become an important factor for Bangladesh in respect of employment generation, GDP growth and poverty reduction. Manpower export has been increasing since 1976 except a few years. Number of migrant workers was 6087 in 1976 but at present it stands at 8.7 million and the flow of total remittances to Bangladesh stands at US $ 16566 million in 2013 (BMET-2013). Remittances have now become a largest single source of foreign exchange earnings in Bangladesh. It is 11.14 percent of GDP and 53.5 percent of total export earnings of the country. Remittance contributes towards increasing the income of the remittance receiving households and the standard of living. It increases investment in human capital, household consumption and also stimulates the savings and investment.

At the household level remittances are used for meeting basic needs and other family expenses. Remittances have both direct and indirect impacts on micro and macro level economics. It not only benefited the remittance receiving families but also contributes to the growth of output and national income. It helps to support payment of imported capital goods and raw materials for industries. The direct contributions of remittances to national income have grown rapidly in the past decade. Remittances have contributed to increase foreign exchange reserve of Bangladesh.

Now foreign exchange reserves of Bangladesh are over US $ 21 billion which is more than 7 times higher than the foreign exchange reserve of the year 2005. We have a large unemployed labor force. In 2010 unemployment was 2.6 million and at present it stands at more than 3 million. And more than 10 million including unpaid are family helpers. Unemployment is a chronic problem in Bangladesh and it is possible to solve this problem to a great extent by exporting manpower. Manpower export is an instrument for increasing foreign exchange earnings and thereby increasing the national income and growth. Remittance has become a dominant variable for economic development of Bangladesh. Recognizing the importance of remittance and migration, the policy makers and the researchers become more attentive to this particular issue.

Our migrant workers are not only remitting their savings to Bangladesh, but they are contributing to the economy of their host countries. In fact, those countries are developing on the toil of these migrant workers. These migrants make their lives easy and comfortable. Without these migrant workers, they cannot advance a single step. But how much care they are taking of these migrants? Instead, they are exploited by the employers and the middlemen. The migrant workers, who are there without valid documents by the grace of unscrupulous agents, are the worst sufferers. Our female workers are also abused either physically or sexually.

Most of the Bangladeshi migrant workers are unskilled workers. Generally, migrant workers are not aware of their rights and responsibilities due to lack of education and awareness. And because of this, they can easily be deprived of their rights. This is true, more or less, for all migrant workers, who are exploited in many ways including deprivation from actual emolument, physical and mental torture, forcing to work against will, not providing proper food or healthy accommodation and medical care, sexual assault (female workers), etc.

An exploitation-free migration system can save the migrant workers to a great extent. The mechanism (G to G) we introduced for Malaysia in 2012 was totally exploitation free, but that could not survive due to unscrupulous manpower agents of Bangladesh and greedy Malaysian employers. In line of that, the IOM can take an initiative to formulate an exploitation free migrants-friendly recruitment mechanism that must be followed by all concerned countries.

The major portion of our people is working in the Gulf countries, Libya, Iraq and Malaysia. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) should continue its efforts to make these countries agreed to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

There should be bilateral arrangements in the migration process so that the worker sending and receiving countries are obliged to respect the human rights of migrant workers as prescribed in the UN convention.

Bangladesh usually sends female workers, mostly for domestic works, to the Gulf countries. And unfortunately, our female workers are coming back every month with a heinous experience of sexual or physical abuse. Even after that, they return empty hand. Can any organisation of the UN come forward with a concrete proposal to stop this?

Migration is a continuous process. So, the sufferings of migrant workers, like exploitation, non-payment, abuse, torture, murder, maltreatment, etc would also continue, if necessary measures are not taken to stop those. The UN can think of some institutional mechanism to address these problems.

While the safety and welfare of the migrant workers are in danger and the violation of human rights of the migrant workers is a peanut for the employers, I would like to urge the IOM to formulate a standard ‘Employment Contract’ to be followed by all workers sending and receiving countries.  The terms and conditions of that contract should be based on the following points- (a) Amount of wage and overtime; (b) Working hour; (c) Holidays; (d) Lodging and boarding; (e) Passage (both ways); (f) Cost for treatment/health insurance; (g) Protection from all kinds of physical/mental tortures, sexual abuse and misbehaves; (h) Punishment for non-payment, sexual abuse and physical/mental torture according to the local laws; (i) Payment of the local taxes; (j) Compensation for accident as per gravity; and (k) Respect to all terms and conditions specified in various international conventions and agreements on this matter.     

Migrant workers are human beings like everyone else. They deserve proper respect and protection. The concerned countries and organisations will sincerely work on this and would streamline the migration system so the rights of migrant workers are protected. This is our expectation on this day.

Over a decade export of manpower from Bangladesh has been increased at a progressive rate except certain years. Migrants’ remittances are now a development alternative for Bangladesh. Manpower export and earning remittance contributed a lot in our development. Now the economy would be greatly affected if the remittance earnings do not continue at a prevailing rate. And the unemployment problem will be turned into a serious problem. Recent decreasing tendency of both migration and remittance have disappointed the nation. To improve bi-lateral relationship with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait is a urgent need for Bangladesh. To find out the causes of failure of G to G agreement with Malaysia and to adopt proper steps is the demand of the time. Training facilities should be expanded every nock and corner of the country.

Exploration of new labor markets is mostly needed for increasing manpower export. There are disparities of migration among divisions and districts of the countries. So measures should be taken to reduce migration disparities. Necessary measures should be taken to increase female migration. To control the illegal activities of the dalals and recruiting agents, necessary laws should be imposed. The foreign embassies of Bangladesh should take active part to solve the problems of migrant workers in destination countries.

The writer, a  researcher, is contributor to The Independent



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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