Recognising sub-agents and ensuring governance are required to control the expenditure of excessive money that migrant workers have to pay for overseas employment, speakers said at a discussion yesterday.
The country’s labour migration sector is largely dependent on sub-agents for recruitment of workers from different parts of the country, who often lack adequate literacy, they said.
However, these sub-agents remain unaccountable because their presence in labour migration process is not recognised by law, they added.
Economics Study Center of Dhaka University organised the discussion on the DU campus, titled “The Cost of Migration: Overseas Employment Scenario for Bangladesh”.
Presenting a paper, labour migration expert Rahnuma Salam Khan said four to five sub-agents exist at different layers between a worker’s first step for overseas job and his employment in the destination country. Referring to government data, she said last year about 3.99 lakh migrant workers were sent to the Saudi Arabia. These workers were supposed to pay Tk 1.65 lakh each as migration cost, set by the government.
However, the average cost the migrant workers are paying for jobs there is Tk 4 lakh each. This means, there is a huge amount of money workers spend as “hidden cost” of migration, she added.
Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme, said the state lacks an effective mechanism to hold sub-agents accountable, although the labour migration sector largely relies on them. He said stopping “visa trading” can be an effective way to ensure governance in the sector.
One reason behind “visa trading” is high demand for work permits for countries, said MA Razzaque, research director of Policy Research Institute.
Unscrupulous syndicates take advantage of such demand, which is often created due to high unemployment rate, he said.
Ananya Raihan, chief executive officer of Infolady Social Enterprise Ltd, also addressed the discussion, chaired by Prof Selim Raihan of DU’s economics department.