Government-to-government labour agreements have failed to protect female domestic migrant workers in Gulf nations. The lack of protection by the domestic legislations of the destination countries is the reason why bilateral contracts fail to serve the purpose.
The findings came up in a research by UN Women Bangladesh on “Intergovernmental mechanisms for the recruitment of women migrant domestic workers from Bangladesh”. The results were shared in an expert group meeting at a city hotel yesterday with Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, additional secretary of the expatriates’ welfare ministry, as the chief guest.
The bilateral labour agreements (BLA) and memoranda of understanding signed with the recruiting nations were reviewed with the lens of gender equality and with the aim of “creating fair and decent employment for women migrant workers”. The analysis was done under UN Women’s Regional Programme on Empowering Workers in Asia.
The country is signing an increasing number of such agreements with Gulf states with the intention of creating overseas employment markets, speakers said,
The research, however, suggests that the agreements “suffer from implementation failures and are a weak form of migration governance”. And so the protection of migrants, who help boost the economy through sending in remittance, remains only on paper.
From interviewing 30 aspiring female migrants and 32 returnees, it was also found that they were not made aware of what was on paper.
Pinky, 20, who was about to travel to Saudi Arabia, said during the study, “Dalal [middleman] said ‘you need to sign few papers’… Dalals do not say what the papers are for.”
The involvement of unlicensed dalals in the recruitment procedure also creates barriers to the government fulfilling its obligations under the bilateral labour agreements, according to the report.
The level of protection a female migrant should get is linked to the gender equality context in the country she is going to be employed.
Regarding protection in the Gulf Cooperation Council -- a regional, political and economic union comprising all Arab states -- the report says legislations and policies they have are advanced but “implementation is weak and enforcement often non-existent.”
Moreover, the bilateral agreements do not address the “lived experiences” of female migrant domestic workers. For example, it does not oblige employers to ensure medical care.
While presenting the report, Prof Nicola Piper, of international migration at the University of Sydney and Queen Mary University of London, put forth a question as to what practical steps the Bangladesh government might take to encourage destination countries to monitor recruiting agents and employers.
Given the power balance between the nations sending domestic workers and those employing them, Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said, the nations -- Nepal, the Philippines and India -- could form a platform to ensure decent wage and fair treatment of female migrants.