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Manpower export down in traditional markets

Mehedi Al Amin
27 Jun 2023 01:02:33 | Update: 27 Jun 2023 12:30:31
Manpower export down in traditional markets

Manpower exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — the two of the biggest markets for Bangladeshi workers — have seen a drastic fall in the first five months of 2023 compared year-on-year.

Overseas employment in two other important destinations, Singapore and Oman, has also slightly dropped, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).

BMET data showed that 1,86,919 Bangladeshis went to Saudi Arabia for work between January and May this year, marking a 40.40 per cent drop. During the same period last year, 3,13,675 people had gone to the kingdom, which is the largest market for Bangladeshi manpower export.

Some 57,988 workers went to the UAE in the first five months of 2022. The number dropped to 36,209 during the same period this year, marking a 37.55 per cent fall.

Also, manpower export to Singapore decreased by around 8.12 per cent to 21,990 in January-May of 2023, down from last year’s 23,935 during the same period, said BMET data.

Manpower export to Oman fell by 1.40 per cent to 68,113 during the same period. It was 69,082 in the first five months of last year.

On the other hand, Malaysia hosted 1,36,648 Bangladeshi workers in January-May of 2023. It was only 79 in 2022.

Meanwhile, manpower export to Qatar increased by 43.72 per cent to 11,241 in January-May of 2023, up from last year’s 7,821.

The reduction in traditional countries was slightly reflected in the country’s total manpower export in January-May. Bangladesh sent 5,03,979 people abroad in these five months in 2022 and the number went down to 5,03,401 this year, marking a 0.11 per cent drop.

Of the total, in 2022, Saudi Arabia had hosted 53.92 per cent of Bangladeshi workers, Oman 15 per cent, UAE 8.96 per cent, Singapore 5.67 per cent, Malaysia 4.41 per cent, and Qatar 2.15 per cent.

This year, Saudi Arabia hosted 37.13 per cent, Malaysia 27.14 per cent, Oman 13.53 per cent, UAE 7.19 per cent, Singapore 4.37 per cent, and Qatar 2.23 per cent.

‘Nothing to worry about’

“Generally friends and family members collect visas for a worker, and Bangladeshi recruiting agencies only process the visas. If a large number of visas are collected in a particular year, the number of visas can reduce in another year. This happens. It’s nothing to be worried about,” Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), told The Business Post.

“In the last 20 years, Bangladesh’s manpower export was concentrated into one or two countries, centring Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia or Oman in times,” she said.

“Now, Malaysia is at the centre. But the current fall in visas for Middle Eastern countries will not impact the market for long,” she added.

Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said, “It's not possible to achieve growth in manpower export every year. But a good number of Bangladeshi workers will still go abroad this year.”

“Apart from the traditional markets, the demand in European countries has also increased in the past few years. There is nothing to be worried about. So far it’s good,” he said.

Currently, Malaysia is recruiting Bangladeshi workers under a “controversial” Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in December 2021.

Malaysia received 24,994 people in January this year and the number increased to 29,320 in February. However, manpower export to the country dropped to 28,579 in March and 18,565 in April. It increased to 35,190 in May.

“After signing the MoU, around 1.5 lakh Bangladeshi workers went to Malaysia against an approved 3 lakh demand. Problems in visa processing are delaying manpower export,” Noman said.

Focus on safety, skill

BMET Director General Md Shahidul Alam told The Business Post, “The government has shown the ability to increase manpower export and is now mainly concentrating on safe migration and sending skilled workers.”

But, Tasneem said, “Vocational training and certification need to be included in mainstream education at schools and colleges to create more skilled workers. That will help them easily get jobs with high salaries.”

“To keep the sector sustainable and maintain development, agencies need to appoint business graduates in their companies and send them abroad to source visas,” she said.

“The readymade garment sector is also sourcing high work orders depending on the educated and trained merchandisers,” said Tasneem, also a professor at Dhaka University.

However, Noman disagreed with the RMRRU chair on this issue.

“Friends and family members collect some visas but recruiting agencies also source work orders on their own,” he said.

“The calculation is done in two ways. The first is group and the second is individual. If a group of migration aspirants has less than 25 members, then they are counted as individuals and recorded as a friend and family visa. So, the recruiting agencies source the majority of visas using their resource.

“Strong attempts in sourcing must be continued to achieve sustainability and growth in the business in the future,” he stressed.