Cost-free hiring of women by overseas recruiters ‘mismanaged’

ARAFAT ARA | Saturday, 23 October 2021

Set government rules on zero migration cost for female domestic workers are not implemented properly by recruitment agencies as a majority of them are allegedly charging money from the migrants.

Workers and insiders said the outbound women domestic workers also were deprived of their due wages that the employers send to recruiting agencies in advance for hiring the workers.

A recent study showed about 65 per cent of women migrant workers paid migration costs as sub-agents charged them. "Female job seekers fail to migrate if they fail to pay," it mentions.

Findings of the study, done by Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) and titled 'Access to Justice for Bangladeshi Migrant Workers: Improving the System', were unveiled in March this year. The surveyors interviewed 262 returnee female workers to come to conclusions.

At least 28 per cent of the women confirmed they had to pay amounts ranging between Tk 21,000 and Tk 50,000, while 15 per cent paid Tk 51,000 to Tk 100,000. About 20 per cent paid Tk 5,000 to 20,000. And the rest 2.0 per cent spent more.

Recruitment of women domestic workers by Saudi Arabia, the largest job destination, is conducted through an online system called MUSANED under an MoU signed between Bangladesh and the KSA. Under the system, employers pay a certain amount in advance to the recruiting agent concerned in the country for the completion of the recruitment process.

"But the online recruitment system is not maintained properly in the country," said Shakirul Islam, chairman of OKUP.

Jahanara Begum returned home last year from Oman, and she has a story to tell. She says the agent denied sending her abroad without migration cost. "So, I was compelled to pay Tk 55,000 to make sure I am going abroad," she says.

She was informed from various sources that women workers did not need to pay money. But, practically, she did not find any such facility.

Sumaiya Islam, executive director (ED) of Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra or BNSK, says manpower recruiters receive US$ 2000 to $2500 from employers in Middle-Eastern countries to send each woman worker.

The amount includes airfare, passport and medical checkup fees and one month's wage of a worker. "But women do not get the wage; rather they are forced to pay migration cost," she said.

The rights activist called for a strong monitoring system. It has to be ensured that women get necessary documents regarding recruitment agencies and employers before starting pre-departure training, she says.

Talking to the FE, Director-General of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) Shahidul Alam said women workers were being informed about zero cost of migration during the training sessions at the Technical Training Centres (TTCs).

"But still women were spending money as middlemen were involved in the process," he said.

"If we could avoid intermediaries from the selection process, they did not need to spend money," the DG added.

To this end, they were thinking about how to recruit the workers from TTCs' lists directly.

Over 0.9 million Bangladeshi women workers have gone abroad with jobs since 1991, BMET data showed.

It showed that a total of 49,129 women workers went to different countries in the January-to- September period of this year.

Of them, 33,263 workers went to Saudi Arabia, while Jordan hired 9196, Oman 4341, Qatar 1473, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 509 in the last nine months.

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