Staff Correspondent: The government has set an annual target of earning US$ 30 billion in remittance during the 8th 5-year plan (FY 2020-25).
The expatriate’s welfare and employment ministry will roll out an overseas employment market expansion roadmap to develop by a new Market Expansion Task-Force for achieving the target. The target was revealed in a 10-point agenda on overseas employment and the well-being of migrant workers of the 8th Five-Year Plan.
Overseas employment and migration could play a more substantive role in the country’s development, beyond just counting remittance,” said the plan.
The 10-point agenda includes initiatives for institutional and legal reforms, capacity enhancement, market expansion, skills development, access to service, access to finance, protection of rights and well-being, digitalisation, private sector engagement, cost of migration, and reintegration.
Currently, overseas employment is limited to about 20 countries. The market expanded from roughly 2.6 million workers in the 6th five-year period to nearly 8 million workers in the 7th plan period.
In order to expand the market, the expatriate’s welfare and employment ministry aims to send at least 5 million new workers abroad, with nearly half of them being of skilled categories.
The ministry will target 20 countries in four new geographic regions, the document said.
In regards to skills development, the ministry will establish one technical training centre in each upazila to provide potential migrants with long-term training.
The planning ministry, in association with the foreign affairs ministry and other relevant entities, will also pursue international accreditation and mutual recognition of skills from at least 20 countries by the end of the plan period.
Moreover, it will develop a policy for skills classification for migration to replace the four traditional categories — less skilled, semi-skilled, skilled, and professional — with a new competency-based grading system.
This includes expanding the grievance management system so that it can be integrated with relevant institutions at home and abroad.
To ensure access to finance, the expatriate’s welfare and employment ministry would work closely with Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB) to remove all bottlenecks. This includes expanding the branch network and the number of agent banking outlets in each upazila.
PKB will also introduce the families of migrant workers to digital banking and a host of other products.
The government has introduced insurance services for migrant workers and their families, and the access to finance agenda includes increasing the coverage and duration of those services.
During the plan period, the ministry will allocate resources to strengthen the institutional capacity to ensure the protection of rights and well-being of migrant workers, especially women.
Non-resident Bangladeshi specialists would be engaged to support new migrants facing troubles in destination countries in terms of legal protection and mental health.
The ministry will also launch a comprehensive programme in collaboration with the private sector to ensure mental health support during their stay abroad and after returning.
The growing importance of overseas employment for the Bangladesh economy is clearly evident. Remittances rose to over $19 billion in 2020 or about 8 percent of gross domestic product(GDP)-up from less than $2 billion in 2000-and have become a major source of foreign exchange earnings, second only to ready-made garments.
As such, remittances contributed 61 percent of the recent foreign exchange reserve buildup in 2015-2020. Overseas employment itself represents over one-fifth of the annual addition to the country’s total labor force and over half of additional manufacturing jobs created in recent years. Close to half a million people found jobs abroad every year from 2015 to 2020.
Recognizing these contributions to the economy, Bangladesh must examine the trends and their impact, and the related policy questions affecting overseas employment and workers’ remittances such as sustainability as an employment source for workers, women in particular; training and keeping a skilled workforce; matching skills demand in major destination countries with the skills of Bangladeshi workers; the associated high costs of labor migration for prospective workers; safeguarding the rights of workers; and strengthening the governance of migration.