Manpower export strategy for national economy

The government should immediately finalise the proposed Comprehensive Migration Policy and the Overseas Employment Act to protect the rights of migrant workers and ensure strict compliance with the provisions by the recruiting agencies, writes Md Harunur Rashid.
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REMITTANCE is the second highest export-earning sector of Bangladesh after the apparel sector. This represents an increase of $1.8 billion over the level of the past year. It is heartening to note that the financial year has closed posting $15.31 billion worth of remittance, the highest ever in Bangladesh’s history. Manpower export sector is now faced with a number of challenges to sustain the future growth of the sector. A research informatics show that from a peak 9.8 lakh in the 2008 financial year through 6.9 lakh in the 2012 financial year, the number of migrants dropped to 4.1–4.2 lakh in the 2014–15 financial year.
As is known, Bangladesh has traditionally been an exporter of workers in the semi-skilled and less-skilled categories. This is also reflected in the lower average per capita remittance sent by Bangladeshi workers when compared with other countries. Population is increasing day by day but the job sector is not expanding to offer jobs to the unemployed and because of the lack of skills, they are not able to contribute to national income. But if we are able to ensure training, the unskilled people will become the wealth of the nation as, then, it will be able to export manpower abroad and earn remittance.
The average share of less-skilled workers rose from 52.4 per cent during 2001–2005 to about 59.8 per cent during 2006–2010. The less skilled workers accounted for about 54.4 per cent in 2011 while others were semi-skilled, skilled and professional workers. It is noteworthy that the number of skilled workers increased significantly in 2011 (40.3 per cent) when compared with 2010 (23.2 per cent). On the other hand, growth in the less skilled category is partially explained by the growing demand for workers in the agriculture sector both in the Middle East and non-Middle Eastern countries (including Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, Egypt and Brunei).
A comparison between semi-skilled (from 12.5 per cent to 13.1 per cent), skilled (30.5 per cent to 27 per cent) and professional workers (4.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent) suggests that a relatively lower number of skilled workers and professionals have gone for overseas jobs from Bangladesh in recent times. This can be attributed to the slowdown of the building and construction sectors in the traditional market, particularly in the Middle East.
According to the World Bank, international migrant stock in Bangladesh was last measured at 0.73 per cent in 2010. Remittances earned from overseas Bangladeshi migrants have traditionally played an important role in replenishing the foreign exchange reserves of Bangladesh. Remittances played a significant role in the economy. The positive impact of remittances on consumption and poverty alleviation is also supported by extensive literature.
Remittances usually generate large multiplier effects as these are more likely to be spent on domestically produced goods, according to the World Bank. Besides, the positive impact of international migration, both in terms of reducing pressure on the domestic labour market and injection of foreign currency into the domestic economy, is well established.
The latest data show that since independence, more than 7.7 million people have left Bangladesh through formal channels for jobs abroad till 2009. The data suggests that a total of 182,558 female workers went for overseas jobs during 1991–2011, accounting for a paltry 2.6 per cent of the total overseas migration in the past 21 years.
The demographic momentum of the OECD countries, characterised particularly by the growth in ageing population resulting in increasing demand for caring services and shortage of workers in the healthcare sector, is likely to create a significant number of job opportunities for the healthcare sector in developing countries, according to the OECD. This reinforces the need to create more skilled and professional migrants.
We, thus, need to strengthen collaboration not only with the labour-exporting countries but also with the recipient countries. The government has ratified the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in April 2011. Technical and strategic support from these organisations could also be sought to facilitate such negotiations. Bangladesh must also play a proactive role in the General Agreement on Trade in Services  negotiations of the World Trade Organisation with a view to ensuring a least developed country-friendly outcome to facilitate export of services to the global market.
Taking the advantage of these new market opportunities is crucial. The importance of the Saudi proposal for hosting workers of certain categories can hardly be over emphasised in the context of the continuing deceleration of manpower export to the country from Bangladesh over the recent past. Besides, such Gulf Cooperation Council countries as Saudi Arab and Qatar are likely to be in high demand for workers in the construction sector in the coming years as the football World Cup 2022 will be held in Qatar.
The government-to-government initiative with Malaysia, Dubai, and Singapore may open new opportunities to increase the growth in overseas migration. While their demand is for less and semi-skilled workers, opportunities for skilled and professional migrants are expected to be quite high in the OECD countries. Hence, time-bound and strategic policy initiatives need to be taken by the government to garner maximum benefits from these emerging market opportunities.
The government also must take immediate measures to finalise the proposed Comprehensive Migration Policy and the Overseas Employment Act to protect the rights of migrant workers and ensure strict compliance with the provisions by the recruiting agencies. The current regime should try to sign more agreements with the recruiting countries.
Finally, proper initiatives need to be taken by the authorities concerned to sustain current labour markets and explore new markets. It is necessary to create a skilled manpower. Recruitment process should be transparent and fair. The government should ensure the welfare of expatriate workers. It should also ensure that the migrant workers abide by the rules and regulations and honour the customs and culture of the host country. Meanwhile, we need to resolve the problem of trafficking in close cooperation with the regional countries to protect our goodwill.
Md Harunur Rashid is an independent research on economics.
Source: New Age

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