Living and working in a foreign land is hard but it is worth while when it comes with financial security. Photo: Zahedul i khan
Under a different sky, leaving loved ones back in one's country, a huge number of people are looking for their destination in search of a better life in a different land which does not smell like one's own where he was born and brought up.
For Md Mofizul Haque, it has been as long as 22 years overseas. He is living in Saudi Arabia, working at a power plant. Mofizul had left home when he was a young and energetic man full of determination to establish himself in life. He had options to work in Dhaka, but he took the decision of going abroad as he wanted to ensure a healthy financial life for himself and his family. So he flew to Saudi Arabia and still has been in the kingdom.
Living and working in another country other than his own must be hard, but when this sacrifice is remunerated with a financial security, it becomes worth its while. In the last 22 years, he has seen a number of people who moved to other countries in search for a better living. Some were successful while some were not due to different types of mismanagement.
Recalling the old time, Mofizul says that when his career took off, the employers preferred to hire Bangladeshi workers who were always at the receiving end but very interested to board. But now, he continues, new workers are not going there, and due to the expiration of contractual agreement old workers are rather coming back home. Few are working under no legal contract and hence are compelled to move under cover from time to time.
According to a statistics of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), manpower export of the country is on the wane. Statistics shows, 2, 91,904 workers left for foreign jobs till September this year. On the contrary, 3, 58,171 workers went abroad in the same timeline last year. Again, the number of workers who went abroad in previous years is impressive. Only in 2007, a total of 8,32,609 workers managed to access the foreign labour market for employment.
Bangladesh Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) Director General Khorshed Alam Chwdhury says, “Saudi Arabia is taking no more than 20 percent workers from any particular country. There are others bars as well in exporting manpower to different countries. Bangladesh is trying to go to alternative labour markets and make a balance.”
The effect of global recession and the closing of a number of fixed labour markets (like Saudi Arabia) for Bangladesh might be responsible for the decline of manpower export. Yet, there are other factors, which are also operational behind this decline. Former president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) Ghulam Mustafa emphasised the 'image' of the country regarding manpower export. “The global labor market seems to be shrinking at this moment for Bangladesh, but the situation was way different 20 years ago. During those times selective countries wanted workers particularly from Bangladesh for the dedication, patience and loyalty they saw in Bangladeshi workers. But today's potential workers often lack these traits and cannot cope with the adverse situation abroad,” says Mustafa, who is also the Managing Director of Prantik Travels & Tourism.
“Again, workers often are responsible for unexpected chaos and disorder. For example, out of frustration they often get involved in mugging, kidnapping and calling strike, which hamper our reputation,” he adds.
The workers often get frustrated, as they face the huge gap between their aspiration and achievement. As the migration cost is excessive and the workers have limited scope to balance that with their wages in a short period of time, they often get upset with their present status and feel hopeless about the future.
“The Government needs to take proper policy regarding the visa procurement system, drawing attention on its cost. Besides, diplomatic failure of Bangladesh, to some extent, might also be responsible for the shrinking of its number of workers in the global labour market,” Mustafa recommends. The country needs to rethink, he adds, the existing policy and planning regarding the expansion of labour market globally and exploring new countries for Bangladeshi labour.
Mustafa also stressed on the government's attempt to enhance diplomatic efforts to explore new markets in Asia and Europe as well. And the attempt would need a public private partnership approach, he observes. “Again, Bangladeshi workers have to compete with the skilled workers of India, Nepal and even Sri Lanka. In that case the government must show its concern in turning human resources into a skilled one effectively and immediately,” he says.
Dr CR Abrar, professor of Dhaka University, rationalises the decline in the number of workers going abroad.
“In the last two years Malaysian market was closed which brought about the decline. Workers' going abroad in illegal ways is a common practice in the country, which was largely curbed during the tenure of the caretaker government for its strictness. That is why it seems that the number rose greatly during that period whereas the actual number is more or less the same.” He adds that the government does not even have a proper database of the number of workers going abroad as well as the records of their returning home.
“The Government needs to prioritise the sectors of concern like creating skilled labour, searching and exploring new labour markets. For example, there is a huge demand of women workers in Jordan, and Iraq has the potential to be a good labour market for Bangladesh,” says Dr Abrar, who is also the Coordinator of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU). He also believes that a budgetary allocation for the Bangladeshi high commission is required in this respect. Because, making effective press wings in Bangladeshi missions around the globe is also necessary to defend any malicious propaganda against the Bangladeshi workers in respective countries, he adds.
“A timely and efficient policy, the government's initiative and the spirit to turn the burden of over population into resource can solve the problem. The government has to address the issue in its ten-year-prospect-plan as this sector has a huge contribution to the country's remittance. Besides, the inter-ministerial coordination among Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry and the Foreign Ministry is required to sort out the existing problem in this regard and go for the resolutions,” observes Dr Abrar.