If remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached a record high in 2018, Bangladesh had also received its fair share. According to the latest report (April,8 last) prepared on the basis of the World Bank's Migration and Remittance brief, officially recorded remittance flows to those countries 'reached $529 billion in 2019, an increase of 9.6 per cent over the previous record high of $483 billion in 2017. To its credit Bangladesh led the pack in South Asia in the growth rate of remittance last year. If the context of remittance inflow is considered, the achievement is doubly satisfying. Labour market in the Middle East was volatile and many migrant workers had to return home - some of them after years of stay and others empty-handed. The programme of sending women domestic helps suffered a serious setback on account of physical abuses. If the Middle-east conundrum haunted the country's labour employment abroad, it was no better with Malaysia where initially the G2G plus initiative showed great prospect of migration from Bangladesh.
So the augmentation of remittance last year should be taken with a grain of salt. Can it be that the expulsion of a large number of migrants from a few Middle-east countries, including the largest employer Saudi Arabia, was the largest contributory factor behind the increased rate of remittance? The World Bank estimates that the country's remittance growth was as high as 15 per cent followed by India, its closest rival, at 14 per cent. If this is a consequence of the various official measures taken to persuade migrant workers to shun illegal channels of sending money home and adopting formal procedures for the purpose, it surely is a most positive development. In that case, the shrinkage of labour market abroad would not look as alarming as it does otherwise. Still, there is need for exploring fresh labour market for the burgeoning young population.
It is exactly at this point, Bangladesh finds itself in an advantageous position. With more than 30 per cent of such population between the age bracket of 10-24, the country could reap the demographic dividend provided that it got its planning right. On the threshold of the fifth industrial revolution, the global means of production are undergoing a sea-change. Clearly, the country's education system is ill-equipped to meet the challenge. There is need for reforming education to suit the need of the time.
The future citizens of this country cannot and should not migrate as unlettered and untrained labourers. They must be imparted either advanced education in information and technology and even in artificial intelligence (AI) where possible or at least developed as technicians whose demand may not fade soon. Today, the country's migrants abroad are mostly employed as labourers and they do not even qualify for supervisory positions largely because of their poor educational background and lack of training. These are areas to which attention has to be paid right now and the education system made compatible with the need of the time. Only then migrants will get better employments, including managerial jobs abroad and send hefty amounts of remittance.
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