Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday directed the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment to make the overseas employment process “very transparent” and conduct a massive campaign to raise the jobseekers’ awareness.
She gave the directives at Monday’s virtual cabinet meeting amid an ongoing row over Malaysia’s suggestion for forming a syndicate to export manpower to the southeast Asian country from Bangladesh.
“The prime minister has instructed that the process will have to be made very precise and transparent for those who will go abroad,” Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told reporters at the secretariat after the meeting, reports UNB. Islam said the overseas employment ministry was asked to ensure that Bangladeshi workers do not pay extra money to get overseas jobs.
Some Bangladeshis went to Malaysia spending Tk 3-4 lakh, but many of them could not recover their cost in two years and returned home empty-handed.
Many Bangladeshis go abroad making direct payment and knowing nothing about the jobs upon assurance by middlemen. The Cabinet secretary said some such cases were also discussed in the meeting.
Joining the meeting from her official residence Ganabhaban, Sheikh Hasina asked the authorities concerned to encourage overseas jobseekers to take loans from Probashi Kallyan Bank instead of selling land to go abroad.
She ordered large scale media campaigns to inform overseas jobseekers about the exact authorities and the amount of expense.
The campaigns will encourage them to take loans from Probashi Kallyan Bank, if needed, as the bank doesn’t provide loans without job confirmation letters.
“So, they will be safe… they will not be deceived,” Secretary Islam said.
Row over Malaysia’s syndication suggestion
Resource-rich Malaysia is a popular choice among Bangladeshis looking for overseas employment. The country currently hosts more than 10.5 lakh Bangladeshi workers, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
In 2020, expatriate Bangladeshis in Malaysia remitted $1.74 billion, which was 7.98 per cent of the total remittance received that year, according to BMET. Last year, even during the raging pandemic, Bangladeshis sent home $1.09 billion from the Southeast Asian country.
In September 2018, Malaysia suspended manpower recruitment from Bangladesh. That year, 2,75,927 Bangladeshis migrated there.
The two countries signed a new five-year agreement for hiring one million workers from the South Asian country on Dec 19 last year. But Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Saravanan, in a letter on Jan 14, urged Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad to send workers through 25 Bangladesh Recruitment Agencies (BRA).
In a strong-worded reply on Jan 18, Bangladesh rejected the proposal, reiterating open competition. “Bangladesh is always in favour of transparent, fair and safe migration…” Ahmad responded.
Bangladeshi recruiting agency owners also demanded keeping the labour market open for all valid recruiting agents to ensure fair competition. They said Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia are among other countries that send workers to Malaysia through open competition among their recruiting agencies.
Tasneem Siddiqui, the chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, told The Business Post that an “unholy nexus” of 25 agencies had influenced Malaysia to write for them. He urged the government to find and punish them. Malaysian Private Employment agency – National Association of Private Employment Agencies Malaysia – hailed Bangladesh’s stance. In a letter to Ahmad on Jan 23, the association’s President Dato Megat Fairouz Junaidi Bin Tan Sri Megat Junid expressed their readiness to work with all Bangladeshi valid licensed agencies in recruiting manpower from here.
Fairouz, in his letter, vowed to undertake all out transparent and fair treatment policies towards Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia.
As Bangladesh has nearly 2,000 valid manpower exporters, letting only 25 of them for the business will create chaos and push up migration costs, recruiting agents said. This will also demean the government’s efforts and objectives of lowering migration costs. The arrangement to send workers to Malaysia from Bangladesh through only 10 recruiting firms from 2017 to 2018 had been a disaster. WARBE Development Foundation Chairman Syed Saiful Haque warned that the market might be lost again if the government failed to break the syndicate.
“Migration cost will increase when a competitive market is missing in sending manpower from Bangladesh to Malaysia,” he told The Business Post.
Immediate past president of BAIRA Benjir Ahmed said all the members of BAIRA should have opportunities to send workers. A vested group is plotting to damage the labour market with fake and confusing information.
“No syndicate should be formed in this regard,” he added.
A senior official at the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said they stood by the spirit of ensuring fair competition among all valid licensed recruiters of Bangladesh.
“No syndication, no monopoly. We have clear instructions from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for ensuring fair competition among all recruiters for sending workers to Malaysia,” the official, preferring anonymity, told The Business Post.