Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur yesterday agreed to reopen the Malaysian labour market soon, which was suspended by the Mahathir-led government over a year ago on allegations of monopoly by a manpower syndicate.
The two countries will hold a joint working group meeting on November 24 and 25 in Dhaka, and the market is expected to be opened then.
The decisions were made at a meeting between Bangladesh’s Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad and Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran at the Malaysian parliament in Kuala Lumpur.
“Labour recruitment in Malaysia will not be confined to the previous 10 agents this time,” an official, who was at the meeting, told The Daily Star by phone.
According to a statement issued by the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry, the two ministers elaborately discussed minimum recruitment costs, increasing the number of recruiting agencies, medical tests of migrants, social and financial protection, and data sharing.
The ministers have emphasised the necessity for improving the process of recruitment, employment and repatriation of Bangladeshi workers. Moreover, they said they were also on the same page to eradicate recruitment malpractices and abuses.
“Especially, the two sides agreed on recruitment of workers at minimum costs and on conducting medical tests of workers once before migration,” the statement said.
Talking to this correspondent yesterday, a recruiting agent in Dhaka said migrant workers go through medical tests twice -- once in Bangladesh and another in Malaysia. If any worker is found medically unfit in Malaysia, he is deported.
A good number of the Bangladeshis who go to Malaysia face deportation due to double medical tests. The decision of medical tests once at home from that perspective is praiseworthy, he added.
Labour migration experts say it appears to be a good progress on labour recruitment in Malaysia, especially as the two countries spoke on social and financial protection of migrants.
However, they warn that there should not be any rush as the experience of labour recruitment in Malaysia from Bangladesh has been bitter time and again.
Only 10 Bangladeshi recruiting agents were authorised by the Malaysian government under G2G Plus deal in 2016 to recruit workers. The initial recruitment cost was fixed at Tk 40,000, but it went up to Tk 4 lakh.
The agencies were selected by the then Malaysian government without providing any basis, though Bangladesh had proposed the names of 745 recruiting agencies.
Dato Amin or Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Bin Abdul Nor, who was granted Malaysian permanent resident status, was the Bangladeshi man considered to be a major player in this industry.
Before that, a G2G deal was signed in 2012. Under it, only 10,000 workers could secure jobs in Malaysia allegedly because powerful lobbies in both the countries opposed the deal. Also, Malaysia then allowed recruitment of workers only in the plantation sector -- something that was not preferred by the Bangladeshis.
Earlier in 2006-08, migration cost was set at Tk 84,000, but it went up to Tk 2 lakh. More than four lakh Bangladeshis migrated to Malaysia that time, but joblessness, underpayment and non-payment of wages had led to recruitment freeze in early 2009.
“Migrants should not be the centre of experiment in Malaysia,” said independent migration expert Asif Munier, adding that the two countries must work out a very strong agreement that serves the migrants’ interests.
Bangladesh and its people have been the victims of previous anomalies, and Dhaka has to be very cautious about any new deal, he said.
According to the ILO convention on migrant labour, workers should not bear any cost for a job abroad. That’s what is being promoted across the globe, and Bangladesh also should go for that, Asif added.
Andy Hall, a UK expert on Nepal-Malaysia and Bangladesh-Malaysia migration corridor, said Nepal inked a labour recruitment deal with Malaysia last year, stipulating that the employers would pay all the cost required for labour recruitment.
“Bangladesh also should follow the same,” said Hall, who lives in Nepal, over phone.