Int’l Labour Migration: Majority of districts falling behind

Although Bangladesh has seen a rise in overseas jobs over the years, in majority of the districts, international labour migration is quite low, largely due to lack of recruiting activities in those regions.

Of about 87.6 lakh workers sent abroad between 2005 and 2019, about 63.91 lakh were hired from only 20 districts, according to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).

These 20 districts, 16 of which are under Chattogram and Dhaka divisions, made up the national average of 1.36 lakh workers sent per district during the period. Numbers in other districts remained low.

For instance, the average number of workers hired from each of the eight districts of Rangpur during the period is only 19,197.

People in northern districts often cannot arrange Tk 3 to 5 lakh for migration costs. Since cash-flow is low there, the network of sub-agents or intermediaries is also absent, as they know business prospects are low.

— Shakirul Islam, Chairperson, OKUP

Overall, about 1.33 crore Bangladeshis got overseas jobs from 1976 till October this year, shows BMET data.

Sector insiders and labour migration experts said the reason behind lack of recruiting activities in many districts could be linked to people's economic condition in those regions.

In the existing recruitment process, agencies largely depend on sub-agents or intermediaries to hire workers from the field.

However, sub-agents usually do not operate in areas where people's economic condition is low, they said.

They added that the government needs to address the existing imbalance in district-wise worker recruitment.

According to BMET, the top 10 districts in terms of workers hired between 2005 and 2019 are Cumilla, Chattogram, Brahmanbaria, Tangail, Dhaka, Chandpur, Noakhali, Narsingdi, Munshiganj and Feni.

Syed Saiful Haque, chairperson of Warbe Development Foundation, said most of the country's licensed recruiting agencies are based in those districts or adjacent ones.

Fakhrul Islam, former finance secretary of Baira, echoed Saiful's view.

Although recruiting agencies can open sub-offices in the "left-behind" districts, they need to think twice about profit, he said.

Fakhrul, also president of Recruiting Agencies Welfare Organisation of Bangladesh, said district employment and manpower offices, and technical training centres can play vital roles in recruiting workers from left-behind areas.

Baira, the apex trade body of the country's recruiting agencies, has more than 1,300 enlisted members.

According to BMET, there were at least 1,434 licensed recruiting agencies in the country as of May this year.

Shakirul Islam, chairperson of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, said people in northern districts often cannot arrange Tk 3 lakh to Tk 5 lakh for migration costs.

"Since cash-flow is low there, the network of sub-agents or intermediaries is also absent, as they know business prospects are low," he added.

Poverty is also behind low international migration in Khulna-Bagerhat, despite the region witnessing internal migration, due to impacts of climate change, he added.

Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme, said international labour migration from supposedly poverty-stricken districts has been low for years.

"To improve the situation, initiatives should be taken to prepare workers, and if necessary, a quota system for them could be launched," he said.

"Besides, a directive could be given to recruiting agencies to hire a certain percentage of workers from left-behind areas," he added.

Shariful also said people in the northern region lack "migration behaviour", such as the desire to take risks. This could be behind the low migration. Traditionally, people from districts like Noakhali and Cumilla have been migrating within the country for years.

Contacted, Shahidul Alam, director general of BMET, said to address the situation, they have recently been arranging  job fairs, with participation of recruiting agencies, for direct recruitment of workers from the field.

Already, such fairs were held in 12 areas of the country in October, the DG recently told The Daily Star.

He also said they have undertaken various other initiatives, which include encouraging traders to open recruiting agencies in left-behind areas and existing agencies to open sub-offices.


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