The foreign labor market is shrinking. Multiple large labor markets closed. Among them is the growing dependence on Saudi Arabia. In the first eight months of this year, more than 6 percent of the workers who went abroad went to that country.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), about 13.3 million people went to work in different countries from 1975 to last August. Of this, 33 percent went to Saudi Arabia.
Relevant sources say that sending workers abroad has been declining for four years due to the recession in the old labor market and the inability to create a new labor market. Of these, the effects of hyperventilation have decreased the most in the last two years. Expatriate income has already started to decline, it may decrease further in the future.
Baira, an association of recruiting agency owners who send workers abroad in the private sector, and Oikya Parishad (ROAB), a recruiting agency, say Saudi Arabia is now the sole labor market. But in the last two years there have been various obstacles. Regular demand is coming from the country. But visas cannot be issued due to embassy restrictions. There was an opportunity to send more workers to the country. Now the agencies of the country are not agreeing to take women workers without two doses of vaccine.
According to BMET, a record number of 1 million workers went abroad in 2017. Then in 2016 it decreased to 6 lakh 34 thousand. In 2019, 6 lakh workers went abroad. Then in the name of corona massive landslide in 2020. Only 2 lakh 17 thousand 69 people go to different countries. And in the first eight months of this year 2 lakh 85 thousand 691 people went. Of these, 74 percent went to Saudi Arabia last year and 6 percent this year.
The big two labor markets are closed
Responsible sources at BMET and Baira say Malaysia, one of the largest labor markets, has been closed for three years. It was shut down in September 2016 due to allegations of corruption. After that, the representatives of the two countries met in stages but could not resolve the issue of launching the labor market.
The UAE has been the second largest labor market since September 2012. Although it was announced to be launched last year, Corona’s influence did not gain much momentum. Last year, only 1,072 workers went to the country. And this year 4 thousand 690 people have gone.
Concerned people say that under the influence of Corona, workers are going to Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon. Sending staff to Jordan has also decreased a lot. Only a nominal number of workers are going to the new labor market.
Former Secretary General of Baira Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that immigration is a big source of foreign exchange earnings. But it is not being given due importance. It is not only the efforts of the Ministry of Expatriates. All the concerned ministries needed to form a coordination cell. Initiatives should have been taken earlier to increase the deployment of workers during the epidemic.
When asked, Secretary of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ahmed Munirush Salehin told Prothom Alo that emphasis is being laid on launching a closed labor market. Negotiations are underway to launch Malaysia. The obsolete market is going to workers in Eastern Europe. If the Corona situation improves, the labor market will return to normal.
Expatriate income is declining
According to the Bangladesh Bank, the expatriate income started increasing from the beginning of Corona. However, it has been declining for three consecutive months. In August last year, the expatriate income came to 196 crore dollars. This time in August, the expatriates sent 161 crore US dollars. Earlier, expatriates sent ৮৭ 160 million in July and 194 million in June. Those two months also came less than the previous year. There are fears that it will decrease further in the future.
Concerned people say that even though the income of everyone in Corona decreased, the income of expatriates in the country increased in a legal way. Many send money saved from uncertainty to the country. At that time the hundi was almost closed. It has resumed after air communication was resumed. About five lakh workers have returned in the last two years. Although some of them have returned, most of them have remained in the country.