Migrant workers destinations: ‘Vision-2030’ makes KSA ‘best’ for Bangladeshis

With 4.57 lakh workers hired from Bangladesh just last year, Saudi Arabia has been the top destination for Bangladeshi migrants for the past five years.

Amid the pandemic in 2020, when most labour markets remained shut, the Gulf country employed 1.61 lakh Bangladeshi immigrants, according to the data of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).

Oman was the second-best destination between 2019 and 2021, giving jobs to 0.72 lakh, 0.21 lakh, and 0.55 lakh Bangladeshis respectively, the data shows.

Last year, Bangladesh saw 6.17 lakh overseas employment. Of them, 4.57 lakh workers migrated to Saudi Arabia -- 76 percent of total overseas employment.

As many as 53,082 female Bangladeshi workers migrated there last year, accounting for 66.2 percent of the total 80,143 female migrants.

At present, the Middle-Eastern country is home to over two million Bangladeshis.

Sector insiders said the reason behind the large number of Bangladeshi workers getting jobs there is the Gulf country's "Vision-2030" under which mega infrastructure development is underway.

"They [Saudi Arabia] are in constant need of workers," Fakhrul Islam, president of Recruiting Agencies Welfare Organisation of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star.

Insiders also said if some necessary steps are taken, Saudi Arabia can be an even better job market for Bangladeshis in the future.

For this, the Bangladesh and Saudi governments need to address challenges such as illegal "visa trading". Besides, whether migrant workers are getting their promised jobs and their wages on time should be looked at, they added.

Visa trading means the selling and buying of job visas by several intermediaries in both labour-sending and -hiring countries.

Addressing an event in the capital recently, BMET Director General Shahidul Alam said about 30 countries could be considered "remarkable" labour markets for Bangladeshi workers.

Terming Saudi Arabia "the best" at present, he said Bangladesh sends workers to 174 countries.

The Middle-Eastern country employed 3.99 lakh Bangladeshi workers in 2019, another 2.57 lakh in 2018, and 5.5 lakh in 2017, BMET data shows.

In 2016, Oman (1.8 lakh) surpassed Saudi Arabia (1.4 lakh) in generating employment for Bangladeshi workers.

In 2017-18, Malaysia was the second-best destination for Bangladeshi workers. It employed 0.99 lakh and 1.75 lakh workers in those years respectively.

Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of Warbe Development Foundation, an organisation working in the field of migration in Bangladesh, said, "Bangladeshi workers are known to be hardworking in the Gulf country."

He, however, said due to illegal visa trading, many workers in the past found themselves jobless in Saudi Arabia, even though they migrated through the regular channel.

Saiful urged the Bangladesh and Saudi governments to address the issue effectively.

The Bangladesh government needs to increase its manpower at the Bangladesh mission in Saudi Arabia to ensure the wellbeing of migrant workers, especially the female, there, he added. 


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