Skilled workers' job abroad marks a dip
Lack of government initiatives to impart quality training, introduce certifying agencies and research of overseas labour markets have led to the decrease of the percentage of skilled and professional workers going abroad.
In many cases, the recruiting agencies also do not care about giving a worker the job they are trained in and often give non-technical workers jobs requiring technical skills, industry insiders said.
Experts say Bangladesh could have earned more foreign exchanges than what it earns now from expatriate workers if the workers were properly trained. Skilled workers usually get better salaries and are less exposed to exploitation, they added.
Only three to six percent of workers who went abroad between 1998 and 2003 were under professional category. The percentage dropped below one between 2004 and 2007, according to the statistics of Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
However, 47 to 57 percent workers who went abroad between 1998 and 2000 were of either skilled or semi-skilled categories. The percentage dropped to 32 to 44 between 2001 and 2007, apart from 2005 when it reached 51 percent.
The percentage of unskilled workers going abroad ranged between 39 and 49 between 1998 and 2000. The percentage went high ranging between 53 and 67 between 2001 and 2007, except in 2005 when it was 48 percent.
"The unskilled workers are vulnerable to exploitation and are not paid what they really deserve. The government has established some new science and technological universities, polytechnic and vocational institutes to increase the number of skilled, semi-skilled and professional personnel but the number is smaller than what is required to meet the demand," a study said.
Moreover, the quality of education provided by these institutes is not up to the mark in comparison to the institutes of other leading manpower exporting countries, said the study titled "Making Bangladesh leading manpower exporter: chasing a dream of $30 billion annual migrant remittances by 2015" conducted by Indian Institute of Management Calcutta in 2007.
"Our analysis shows that in most of the countries Bangladeshi workers are earning much less than the average market-based estimates," the study says adding that poor bargaining skills of Bangladeshi agencies in negotiating salaries for workers is also causing low wages.
Even in the so-called unskilled categories there is need for a minimum acceptable proficiency which is rising across the globe. Therefore, Bangladesh needs to provide the unskilled workers basic training and grooming as the competition in this category is going to be severe with many LDCs from African and Asian continents joining the fray.
The study sponsored by the Royal Danish Embassy in Dhaka says skill certification requirements in the host country either prevent market access causing rejection of work permits or visa applications or limit specific activities.
Unfortunately, there is no agency in Bangladesh to certify those who are trained up for working abroad.
"Nurses have huge demands in European and American countries, but there is no international certifying agency. A Bangladeshi nurse needs to go to India or Bangkok to face examination if she wants to go to a European country," said a recruiting agent.
Mentioning unimportant reasons the government even imposed various restrictions on the introduction of nursing education in private universities, said Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) Coordinator Prof CR Abrar.
He said there are many training courses that are outdated but they are still conducted at the government's technical training centres. "We must see exactly what the requirements are and then design courses accordingly," he said.
BMET Director General Abdul Malek said under BMET and expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry there are 38 training centres where the government has recently incorporated new training courses.
These centres have the capacity to train 26,000 individuals yearly. Twenty-seven percent of the trained people from these centres go abroad, he noted.
"Our foreign ministry collected list of the most demanding job sectors in different countries. We are also thinking about introducing international certifying agencies for different sectors so that our overseas jobseekers can get jobs with better wages and facilities," he said.