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Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem on migration and employment

Published in The Financial Express on Monday, 18 May 2015.

Fortune seekers go for perilous sea journeys
Poor outcome of official job exploration abroad blamed

Arafat Ara

Fortune seekers were undertaking perilous sea journeys for jobs abroad as the manpower markets in Middle East and Asia could not be explored effectively by the authorities, experts and sector-insiders have said.

The experts said a poor outcome of official overseas-job exploration over the last five-six years, coupled with Rohingya influx from Myanmar, led to the current debacle.

They observed the government to government (G-to-G) arrangement with Malaysia did not yield any tangible progress in increasing the manpower export to the newly-industrialised ASEAN country.

According to official data, only 9,000 Bangladeshis got jobs in Malaysia through the official channel after the G to G deal signed in 2012. But thousands of people travelled there illegally by undertaking perilous journey through the sea routes during the period.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that between 2012 and June 2014 more than 87,000 people travelled to Malaysia by trawler.

Its report also says an estimated 25,000 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis boarded smugglers’ boats to undertake the risky rides in the first three months of this year.

And a report of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) showed nearly 20,000 Bangladeshis travelled through sea routes only from Sirajganj district between 2013 and 2014.

Khandoker Golam Moazzem, additional research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), pointed out the factors in which the problem was spawned.

Lower overseas employment, high migration cost in Middle East, internal unemployment and poor vigilance in coastal areas were working behind the human trafficking, he says.

The policy analyst noted that for the last few years there had been hardly any investment in the country.

“So job opportunities cannot increase compared to the rate of unemployment,” he said.

BMET data shows about 475,278 Bangladeshis got jobs abroad in 2009 while 390,702 in 2010, 568,062 in 2011, 607,798 in 2012, some 409,253 in 2013 and 425,684 in 2014.

The official data also shows that 131,400 people went to Malaysia with jobs in 2008, but the number drastically declined to 5,134 in 2014. And about 132,000 Bangladeshis went to Saudi Arabia in 2008 while the number dropped to only 10,670 in 2014.

The situation is almost same for the other key overseas job destinations, like Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Nearly 2.0 million fresh faces enter job market in Bangladesh each year. But it is yet to create adequate employment opportunities for them.

As per Bangladesh Labour Force Survey 2013, the country’s total labour force stood at 60.07 million (6.007 crore), up from 56.7 million recorded three years back. The total unemployed stood at 2.58 million (2,580,000) in 2013.

RMMRU chair Tasneem Siddiqui said because of the slow move under the G-to-G arrangement Bangladesh was unable to tap the job opportunities in Malaysia. Besides, the government failed to explore markets in the Middle East also.

“If they could enter those markets properly, the situation would not be so terrible,” she said.

The RMMRU chair also said the government-to-government arrangement failed to make any notable progress–it was now time to review it.

Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) president Mohammad Abul Bashar said the number of overseas jobs declined in the last few years. Middlemen and traffickers were taking the advantage of the situation.

“The government should take diplomatic initiatives to create more jobs in Malaysia and Middle East countries also.”

But Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE) Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said overseas employment increased significantly compared to that under the BNP-led government.

“Through G-to-G arrangement the number of jobs will increase in future,” he expressed his hope.

About 9.0 million Bangladeshis are now working in 169 countries. Of them, only about 20 countries have absorbed the bulk of the overseas Bangladeshi workers.

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