Wage Earners’ Welfare Board: Expatriates signing up to get benefits
In recent years, Bangladeshi expatriates have been registering as members of the Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB), which enables them to avail of its various welfare services, right from their host countries.
Over 1.37 lakh expatriates became members of the board, which is under the expatriates' welfare ministry, from 2017, when the registration process started, till October this year. Of them, 85,493 have been availing of the services since last year, show WEWB data.
Registrations were completed through 27 Bangladesh mission offices -- embassies, high commissions and consulate generals -- that have a labour-welfare wing.
Officials said while providing other services, they have been encouraging expatriates to become WEWB members.
Membership is "mandatory" to get WEWB services, said its director (finance and welfare) Shoaib Ahmad Khan.
Expatriates who are legally employed abroad but did not register [with WEWB] before migrating can apply for membership now, he told this newspaper over phone.
If a migrant worker dies abroad, WEWB gives Tk 3 lakh to the family as compensation and Tk 35,000 for burial and taking the body from the airport to home, after it arrives in Bangladesh, he added.
At present, over one crore Bangladeshis live in over 160 countries, according to an estimate of the expatriates' welfare ministry.
Outgoing migrants with employment visas undergo an emigration clearance process conducted by the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET). Since 2010, such migrants have been provided with a BMET emigration clearance card.
At present, one needs to pay Tk 3,500 as a one-time welfare fee. This enables them to avail WEWB services, said officials.
However, there are expatriates who went abroad on student or visit visas and did not undergo the aforementioned process. Besides, there are diaspora communities in different countries, they said. These groups of expatriates are among those undergoing the WEWB registration process in different countries.
For registration, an expatriate needs to apply online and pay a fee.
As recognition of their membership, expatriates are provided with a membership card, according to WEWB.
WEWB data show that 39,729 expatriates got WEWB membership this year till October. A total of 18,568 members, the highest, have been staying in Saudi Arabia.
Registration from the United Arab Emirates saw a rise this year, with 14,285 expatriates getting membership till October. Last year, only 5,803 got membership there.
Other significant numbers of registrations this year were witnessed in Italy (3,178), Kuwait (1,651), and Greece (891).
The WEWB welfare services also include financial support to ill migrant workers, education scholarship for children, and allowance for children with disabilities.
Muhammad Reza-E-Rabbi, counsellor (labour welfare) at Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said expatriates who migrated to the Arab country decades ago are mainly registering.
Those who entered Saudi Arabia carrying BMET clearance cards are automatically entitled to WEWB welfare services, he said.
An official at the Bangladesh consulate general in Dubai echoed the situation Reza-E-Rabbi described.
Also, Bangladeshis who migrated there on a visit visa and later got employment visa were availing the opportunity, the official said, seeking anonymity.
The mission has been campaigning at the community level to encourage expatriates to avail the opportunity, he added.