Labour Migration to Malaysia: Employers to bear costs at their end

Says expat ministry release after Dhaka, Kuala Lumpur sign MoU; not clear how much workers have to pay in Bangladesh
Photo: Collected

Employers in Malaysia will bear Bangladeshi workers' migration costs incurred in that country, the expatriates' welfare ministry said in a press release after the signing of an MoU between the two countries.

Expatriates' Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad and Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Saravanan signed the memorandum of understanding, which will be in effect until December 2026, in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The release did not mention how much the workers have to pay while in Bangladesh before migrating to Malaysia.

The MoU will end a freeze of more than three years on Bangladeshi workers' recruitment in Malaysia. In September 2018, the Malaysia government froze recruitment from Bangladesh following allegations of labour exploitation and high migration costs of up to Tk 4 lakh per worker.

Despite the development, however, fears remain over syndication of a few recruiting agents driving costs up.

The ministry hoped recruitment of Bangladeshi workers will start soon upon completion of necessary procedure.

However, fears also remain over whether labour migration would meet the ethical recruitment criteria of employers covering migration costs at both ends.

The costs that employers will cover include the service charge of the Malaysian recruiting agency, travel to and from Malaysia, and accommodation, according to the expatriates' ministry press release.

Moreover, employers will pay the immigration, visa, medical test, insurance, Covid-19 test, and quarantine fees in Malaysia, it said.

The presence of Malaysian recruiting agencies will be a new inclusion in the labour-sending process as previous recruitments were operated by Bangladeshi agencies.

The ministry expects that recruitment costs will now reduce significantly.

Andy Hall, a migrant worker rights specialist on Malaysia, however expressed doubt over the extent to which Bangladeshi workers would actually be spared the costs of migrating to Malaysia.

He said it's often the case in practice in Malaysia that an employer or agent will deduct workers' wages to cover recruitment costs, which the employers paid for in advance.

According to the International Labour Organisation, the "employer pays principle" cites that no worker should pay for a job and the costs of recruitment should be borne not by the worker but by the employer.

The costs include recruitment, travel, visa and administrative expenses and other forms of unspecified "fees" and "service charges", according to ILO.

Hall raised concerns that a lack of transparency may result in a return to illicit and syndicated recruitment activities, which could in turn lead to "systemic debt bondage and forced labour" of Bangladeshi workers newly brought into Malaysia under the deal.

Noting that the details of the MoU have not been made public, he urged both countries to do so.The signing of the MoU is expected to meet the urgent need for recruitment in Malaysia, reads a Malaysian human resources ministry statement.

Its implementation will be regulated by a Joint Working Group with members from both countries.

Bangladeshi workers are expected to be hired in various sectors including plantation, agriculture, manufacturing, services, mining, quarrying, and construction.

The statement further says, as per a standard operating procedure, the workers need to complete Covid-19 vaccination in Bangladesh and RT-PCR tests two days prior to travel.

The workers are only allowed to enter through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Besides, workers will have to undergo quarantine for seven days in Malaysia.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of the immediate past committee of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, said the reopening of Malaysia's market will boost Bangladesh's labour migration sector.

He hoped that each of the licensed recruiting agencies in the country will be able to send workers to Malaysia.

As the expatriates' welfare minister promised repeatedly, hopefully there will be no option for syndication in the process, he said. 


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