A boon to Bangladesh | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 21.12.2012
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A boon to Bangladesh

Malaysia has decided to re-open its doors to Bangladeshi migrant workers. The Malaysian decision comes as a big relief to Bangladesh where tens of thousands of job-seeking youths aim to move abroad every year.

Since the mid-1970s, when young men from Bangladesh began going abroad to seek employment to support their families back home, the Arab countries represented their favourite destination. Later, when the flow turned towards southeast Asia, Malaysia became the place that they all wanted to go to.

Men from Bangladesh, who used to work in Libya and fled the unrest in the country, carry their belongings as they arrive in a refugee camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia, Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Arab spring uprooted many migrant Bangladeshi workers

Shattered dreams

Some years ago Malaysia began complaining that Bangladeshi manpower exporting agencies were often sending labourers in excess of the number mentioned in the contract, and that many were landing in the country with fake visas.

Since the government of Bangladesh failed to rein in the unscrupulous agencies, Malaysia stopped hiring labourers from Bangladesh from early 2009 onwards. The Malaysian ban on Bangladeshi migrant labour came as a big blow to the over-populated, impoverished south Asian country. The hopes of tens of thousands of unemployed Bangladeshi youths who had plans to migrate to Malaysia were shattered by the ban. Following domestic pressure, the Bangladesh government kept up efforts to get the ban withdrawn.

A Bangladeshi child laborer works at a balloon factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, June 12, 2011

An over-populated, impoverished country where work is a rare commodity

The reprieve

Finally, after long years of lobbying, Dhaka managed to get Kuala Lumpur sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on November 26. The new agreement signals the resumption of the import of Bangladeshi manpower to the southeast Asian country after a gap of four years.

As per the latest MoU, at least 500,000 Bangladeshis would be hired by Malaysia over the next few years, said Sahidul Alam Majumdar, an executive of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE).

“This time we are exporting our manpower in a government-to-government (G-to-G) arrangement. We hope there will be no irregularity in the deal now and our job-seeking youths will keep moving over to Malaysia smoothly,” Majumdar told DW.

“In January we are set to send 30,000 workers for Malaysia’s plantation sector and we hope at least 50,000 Bangladeshi workers would fly to Malaysia every six months.”

Malaysia urgently needs workers in plantation, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and the service sectors and it would recruit all five categories of labourers from Bangladesh, it has been reported.

Members of Bangladesh Navy are seen with people rescued from a sunken boat in Bay of Bengal in Teknaf November 7, 2012. A boat carrying about 110 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from neighbouring Myanmar sank in the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday as they were heading to Malaysia

Many Bangldeshis have been trying to reach Malaysia illegally

An affordable lottery

Since the number of applicants is expected to be overwhelmingly high, the authorities have decided to pick the workers for Malaysia through lottery. In the past many manpower agencies in Bangladesh charged as much as 200,000 takas (1,880 euros) to send one job-seeker to Malaysia. On this latest G-to-G agreement, a Bangladeshi will have to pay only 40,000 takas (375 euros) to be able to move to Malaysia and land a job there.

As the news of the re-opening of the Malaysian labour market spread across the country, it has caused a stir among many unemployed youths. The government has already set up registration centres in all 64 districts of Bangladesh to enlist applicants keen to move to and work in Malaysia.

A shot in the arm

Sixty per cent of Bangladesh’s seven million migrant labourers have been at work in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. However, Saudi Arabia has not been hiring manpower from Bangladesh since 2007 . Earlier this year UAE too stopped issuing fresh visas to Bangladeshi workers, dealing a heavy blow to the south Asian country.

Against the backdrop of a substantial decline in manpower export to key Arab countries, resumption of recruitment of Bangladeshi workers by Malaysia comes as a shot in the arm for Bangladesh, said Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Dhaka-based think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue.

“The MoU is a milestone achievement for Bangladesh because it would lead to employment for as many as half a million Bangladeshis in a foreign country. What is also important is that the recruitment is going to be a low-cost G-to-G affair which will allow people from relatively poor households and poor regions to avail of the opportunity to access the overseas labour market. Previously this poor class could never think of paying as much as 200,000 takas (1,880 euros) for a trip to Malaysia,” Rahman told DW.

Bengalische Banknoten von 2 bis 1000 BDT. Datum: 25.10.2011

Both individual families and the nation as a whole rely on remittances from abroad

Bangladesh is heavily dependent on remittances by expatriate Bangladeshis.
According to a Bangladesh Bank report, the country’s remittance income in the current year had already crossed 10 billion euros by November. For Bangladesh, the remittances have become the second-biggest earner of foreign exchange after the garment industry, worth 14.25 billion euro.

Author: Shaikh Azizur Rahman
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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