Md. Joynal Abdin
The Daily Sun on November 18, 2016
Contribution of agriculture, industry and service sector to the Bangladesh GDP was 51.03%, 7.68% and 41.28% in the year 1971 (during the Liberation War of the country) respectively. Similarly, it was 31.55%, 20.63%, and 47.81% in the year 1980, 32.75%, 20.69% and 46.55% in the year 1990 respectively. Later on in the year 2000 contribution of agriculture, industry and service sector to the Bangladesh GDP was 23.77%, 23.31% and 52.91% respectively. Currently (2015) contribution of the same sectors to the Bangladesh GDP is 15.50% (Agriculture), 28.14% (Industry) and 56.34% (Service). From the above discussion it is quite clear that the economy of Bangladesh is going through a transformation from agriculture dependent economy into industrialised economy. Agriculture has an optimum point of production that could not be increased by increasing inputs. Therefore the government is encouraging industrialisation for facilitating employment generation, poverty reduction, earning foreign currency by increasing exports, and so on and so forth.
Since our independence one segment of Bangladesh GDP i.e. service sector is rising sharply without much efforts and measures. It has grown from 41.28% into 56.34% without any breakthrough. Contribution of industry rose to 28.14% from 7.68% with the growth of RMG, Leather, Plastic, Agro-processing sub-sectors. We offered back to back L/C facility, bonded warehouse facility, Cash incentives, Negotiated at WTO and other regional and bilateral forums to ensure duty-free and quota-free facilities to the manufacturing industrial sub-sectors. As a result, readymade garment (RMG) sectors earned UDS 25.49 billion in 2014-15 FY. If the value addition is around 30% then we could state that Bangladesh received USD 7.65 billion by employing 1.2 million workers, a large amount of capital, fullest capacity of our diplomacy etc.
On the other hand, Bangladesh received USD 15.31 billion remittance in 2014-15 FY by employing 0.6 million overseas workers. Without consuming Bangladeshi rice, water, gas, electricity or any other facility overseas workers contributed USD 15.31 billion for the country. Most of them are less-skilled, semi-skilled or even unskilled. How many Bangladeshi taka the government provided as cash incentives for them? How much tax government weaved? How many trade delegations went to negotiate with foreign recruiters regarding the welfare of these overseas workers of Bangladesh? How many free trade agreements required be negotiated or signed to promote flow of workers to the destination countries? How many institutes/ universities the government has established to increase their skills so that they could earn more money with the same service?
USD 15.31 billion is net profit of Bangladesh whereas we are working hard to get USD 7.65 billion profits by employing more workers, capitals, policies, and so on and so forth. It is very shame for the nation while we read news that baggage of this overseas workers are missing in Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport while returning home. It is our national disability to establish a government commission for promoting overseas employment in abroad. They will be liable to collect foreign demands for the workers and supply visa to the interested workers without super profit of the middlemen.
We hate those Bangladeshi diplomats who are ashamed to talk to Bangladeshi workers abroad while they are in dire need for help. We hate those embassy people who disagree to offer information support / direction / advise while a Bangladeshi worker is missing abroad. Many Bangladeshi workers have to be buried abroad while they died there. Why could not we ensure an overseas worker that his dead body will be carried forward to your family if he dies over there? Anyway this sector is the second highest source of foreign currency for Bangladesh economy.
Migration from Bangladesh started in 1976 with a modest number of 6,078 workers. Presently Bangladeshis are engaged in overseas employment in more than 100 countries; about 6.07 million workers had been employed in various parts of the world up to October 2016. 2007 and 2008 were the highest overseas employment years in the history of Bangladesh with total 8.32 million and 8.75 million employed overseas. But in terms of remittance 2014 and 2015 are the highest earning years with USD 14.94 billion and USD 15.27 billion remittances respectively.
About 49.65% Bangladeshi overseas workers are less skilled, 31.75% are skilled, 15.15% are semi-skilled and only 2.3% of them are professionals. Comilla has the highest number of overseas employed population i.e. about 11% of the total overseas employed population followed by Chittagong 9.57%, Brambanbaria 5.22%, Dhaka 4.48% and Chandpur 4.16% of total migrated populations. Top most destinations of Bangladeshi overseas workers are the KSA, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore etc.
To ensure smooth migration of workers and professionals, the government shall have to take the following steps:
- to reduce the prevailing unemployment problem of the country;
- to earn foreign currency without consumption of Bangladeshi foods or drinks;
- to reduce frustration among the youths, terrorism, drug addiction, social unrest etc;
- to develop the capability of investment for self-employment and entrepreneurship;
- to promote relevant business sub-sectors like travel agents, aviation, tourism etc;
- to enhance the financial capability and purchasing power of the migrant workers which gears up the economic activities and uplifts the standard of living;
- to enhance transfer of technology to the country through technical knowledge and expertise acquired by the workers working abroad;
- to create motivation and develops awareness of the migrant workers towards cleanliness, hygienic environment, importance of literacy, discipline, etc.
Overseas workers face the following challenges while migrating:
- Corrupt Passport office does not issue passports without some extra money / hassle.
- Super extra profit motive of the recruiting agency / visa sellers leads to abnormally high payment for the visa.
- Procedural hassles in some legal institutions in home and abroad.
- Over demand of the employers without adequate requirement of labour just to get the money by selling visa.
- Non-payment, underpayment, delayed payment, poor living conditions, refusal to provide air tickets at the time of exit, non-adherence to the terms and conditions of employment by the sponsors.
- Sometimes workers are repatriated after becoming handicapped temporarily or permanently due to accidents without proper treatment or compensation.
- If a worker dies over there, then carrying his dead body is another burden for his family.
- In most of the cases victims’ families do not receive insurance or other benefits due to non-claim for the benefit.
- The government is paying around three lakh Bangladeshi taka to each of the victims’ families (if workers die abroad) but the system is too cumbersome and lengthy.
- Sometimes recruiting agents do not provide any money receipt for receiving money from the migrant workers.
- Sometimes some agents do not handover the requisite papers like employment agreement, visa papers, etc., to the workers, or they deliver it at the last moment before departure.
- Sometimes recruiting agents do not come up to assist the workers who are facing various problems related to their contracts in the destination countries.
The above mentioned hassles would be removed if the government took following actions:
- Activating relevant government agencies with a view to turning regulators to service providers;
- collecting demands for workers and professionals from foreign recruiting authorities and supplying those visas to the interested workers and professionals with a logical / banking profit;
- the government should reduce government agency linkage to reduce migration time and relevant corruption;
- searching new destinations and new professions to increase remittance earnings;
- providing training on demanded trade and exporting skilled workers instead of unskilled or semi-skilled workers and using Bangladeshi embassies as service centres for the overseas workers instead of remaining typical bureaucrats.
Neighbouring India earns much more remittance per overseas worker because they are sending skilled workers after negotiating their working environment, minimum salary, insurance benefit etc. Migration cost from India to the same destination is much less than that of Bangladesh. Therefore it is time for the government to come forward for the welfare of the overseas workers and migrating professionals to ensure a hassle-free, safe and secure migration and ensure logical remuneration for them through government to government negotiation. Special drives could be taken for encouraging highly educated professionals to opt for overseas employment to ensure more earnings and quick development of the country.