From what data is available, the number of economic migrants entering international labour markets jumped a marked 56.82 percent in 2011-12 over the previous fiscal year. This is good news indeed. The latest government move to explore alternate arrangements, i.e. state-to-state deals with counterpart governments like Malaysia is a step in the right direction. Should the government-level deal work out smoothly, Bangladesh could potentially look forward to increasing its inward foreign exchange remittance manifold in the coming years.
According to domestic and international estimates, international labour markets are experiencing a declining trend in their workforces. This means, developed countries will increasingly turn to expatriate workers. There is no doubt that Bangladesh is already reaping the benefits of this trend. Government data show that inward remittance increased by 10.26 percent in 2011-12 to $12.85 billion over the previous fiscal year. The World Bank believes the increase could be as high as 15 percent. Whatever may be the increase, this figure represents a fraction of total remittances. It does not account for money sent back to Bangladesh over informal channels such as hundi.
While we may bask in the sun knowing that the country has been recognised by Goldman Sachs as the “next 11” emerging countries, it ought to be remembered that Bangladesh is just one of the many countries which will be vying for a greater share of this market. For Bangladesh to expand into new markets, a lot of work needs to be done. These include amongst others: establishing vocational training centres to upgrade the skills of workers. This has long been advocated by experts. The country at present has had some successes, i.e. other countries have shown interest in taking paramedics such as nurses from Bangladesh.
Again, were we able to make the right push in finalising government to government deals with the large labour markets, semi skilled workers who are in a higher earning bracket than unskilled workers could contribute significant earnings in foreign exchange for the country? Upgrading skills can only come through the right policy initiatives and time has arrived for these.