Bangladesh is in great trouble with the unskilled labor force employed in many countries for long. The employers are now sending the unskilled labor force back to Bangladesh. So, more than 12 million expatriate workers are concerned as some of the labour recipient countries are in a race to send back Bangladeshi unskilled workers. The semi and low-skilled workers are concerned. They are thinking how they will lead their life after returning to Bangladesh. Their families who are living in towns for better education of their children are noticed to go back to villages. Their living standard is set to deteriorate shortly. Above all, if the situation continues, the impact of poor inflow of remittance is likely to affect the whole economy, no doubt.
In recent months, the news stories on expatriate workers, both male and female, are appearing on front pages alongside editorial pages of the newspapers. The stories came to our notice like a bolt from the blue. This is not good news for us because Bangladesh is so far moving forward with contribution from expatriates. If the country does not attempt to address this much-discussed issue, the unemployment rate would go up resulting in a negative growth trend of the economy. Mainly, the demand for unskilled and semi-skilled workforce is declining against the backdrop of economic reform. The government is also expressing grave concern over the issue.
Nevertheless, many labour hunting countries have recently adopted plans not to hire Bangladeshi people as workers. That would result in negative inflow of foreign remittance shortly. Already the messages of expatriates' woes who are staying abroad have reached every nook and corner of the country. The government needs to take speedy steps to stand by the expatriate workers who are telling the tales of their woes. Ultimately, the impact of negligence towards remittance senders, if it continues to happen, will affect our economy. If unskilled people engaged in low paid jobs abroad come back to Bangladesh at this moment, it will affect our capacity to make our import payments that are due in a huge volume. Moreover, the number of unemployed people will rise which will be a curse for any economy.
Truly speaking, rural economy has changed to a great extent due to foreign remittance. Living standard and purchasing power of common people are being noticed to go up within very short time thanks to foreign remittance. But, as a result of the recent rush of inbound workers from abroad, the whole economy will be left in the dire straits. It is known to all that Bangladesh being an import-dependent country, its payment depends on only foreign remittance. In the current time, economic growth is up, though there is a huge trade gap indicating that remittance is a must to adjust the balance of payment. So, there is no alternative to taking initiatives for sending skilled workers abroad in the economic interest.
In middle-eastern countries, there are many allegations about employers. Women workers in Saudi Arabia face brutal torture alongside rape. They are used as non-declared wives by a dishonest section of the employers. They are not allowed to go out freely. Such allegations many times have been filed with the concerned government bodies without that much results. Over the past few years, women have been flying abroad in search of better fortune to leave their regular garment jobs. They seldom find congenial environment wherever they are employed. Many are returning to Bangladesh without filing cases over what they faced at work places. They are not respected in the society like before. So, the women become depressed soon after landing in Bangladesh. Nobody stand by them in weal and woes.
Under the decision taken by Malaysian government titled "Back for Good" program, around 30,000 workers were set to be sent to Bangladesh. Some months ago, a few Middle Eastern countries forcibly obliged Bangladeshi workers to go back to their motherland. It is also alleged that the workers having no valid papers get no help of consular offices regarding stay there to earn more. Among other countries, Malaysia had been hiring unskilled workforce from Bangladesh for long. The government watchdog should sit for negotiations with Malaysia to stop their "Back for Good" programme. If needed, the government high-ups have to fly right now to resolve the problem faced by the workers there. Those who could not return to Bangladesh due to rise in air ticket prices should be identified. The state has a role to bring back Bangladeshis with support from the state fund.
After so many years of independence, Bangladesh advanced in many sectors. But, the country could not build a skilled labour force by providing training, though the budget allocates much to educate them. In the present context, giving training to less skilled people is a must prior to sending them abroad. Japan, the world's one of key economically powered Asian countries, is going to welcome professionals born in Bangladesh. There is a huge demand for skilled people in Japan. But, necessary efforts are rarely seen to produce fully-skilled manpower for demand-driven countries. Currently, the number of skilled workforce is not more than 15 per cent. The concerned department has promised to send 100 per cent skilled workers by 2030.
Bangladesh still lags behind in receiving foreign remittance. It ranks 9th whereas India and Pakistan are placed ahead of Bangladesh. Indian-born people earn reputation where they are employed as a result of having expertise in language and technology. According to World Bank (WB), Bangladeshi workers sent remittance in 2018 to the tune of $ 15.9 billion whereas India and Pakistan received $79 billion and $ 20.9 billion. In viewing this scenario, Bangladesh has to be aware of sending qualified workforce. Some tourists-dependent economies like Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Indonesia among others demand people having broad ideas about hotel management. The government's concerned department might take a decision on exporting job seekers to tourists-oriented countries.
What is needed to be mentioned here is that for the workers who die while living abroad their families get a little financial support from both states. Bangladesh is going to face a challenge from the inbound workforce to a great extent. Is our country able to produce skilled manpower for sending abroad within a short time? As the country now sees a large number of unemployed graduates, the state has to take speedy actions regarding sending them abroad. Then the newly-graduated people will contribute much to our economy by doing overseas jobs. Vocational training on English language proficiency and elementary computer knowledge course might be arranged from the state side for building a skilled labour force.
Md Mazadul Hoque is an economic analyst and currently serving at Social Islami Bank Ltd. [email protected]