Hiren Pandit: Our remittances failed to reach the milestone of two billion dollars for 6 consecutive months. Finally, in the ninth month of the financial year, the remittance flow turned around again, exceeding two billion dollars.
That is, 201 crore 76 lakh 80 thousand US dollars came in March, the month of independence. According to Bangladesh Bank data, expatriates sent record remittances during the month of independence. They feel that the Central Bank’s efforts to send remittances through legitimate channels have worked. They are being given cash incentives. In this, Bangladeshis working in different countries are encouraged to send remittances through legal channels, i.e. banking channels. Bangladesh Bank also expects good remittances to come in this month as Eid is ahead.
Besides, according to the data of the Central Bank, in March a total of 201 crore 76 lakh 80 thousand dollars of expatriate income came. Out of this, 23.46 million dollars or more than Tk 2510 crore came through state-owned banks. Expatriate income of 4.5 million dollars or 482 million rupees has come through specialized banks. 173 crore 15 lakh dollars or 18 thousand 527 crore taka through private banks and 65 lakh 20 thousand dollars came through foreign sector banks.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized exploring foreign employment opportunities in new countries and sending skilled manpower there and emphasized sending remittances to the country through legitimate channels of expatriate Bangladeshis. The government has to take measures to send manpower to new areas of employment and new countries. They provide the kind of training that a country needs.
The government has already started sending workers to some new countries but we need to send skilled manpower and for that, the government has arranged multifaceted training for the workers. If we can send skilled manpower through proper training, we have a great chance of achieving economic prosperity.
She also instructed the officials concerned on how Bangladeshi expatriate workers should be well and encouraged them to send remittances through legal channels. Prime Minister’s emphasis on finding foreign employment in new countries. Moreover, expatriate Bangladeshis have been called upon to send remittances to the country through legal means. We have a great opportunity to achieve economic prosperity by sending skilled manpower.
If expatriates send remittances home through hundi, it may reach their family members and they spend it. But in this, the person sending this money does not save anything. Many expatriate workers find that they have no money in the country after returning home and many have to face such problems. In this regard, the Prime Minister also said that the government is giving incentives to those who send money through banking or legal channels.
For this purpose, she directed the concerned officials to carry out an extensive awareness campaign. She also emphasized the need to create awareness so that people do not get cheated while working abroad and get proper employment. In this regard, Sheikh Hasina said that her government has set up digital centers across the country and foreign job seekers can register themselves with the Expatriate Welfare Ministry by visiting the centers.
The Prime Minister mentioned the women workers who are going for employment abroad with proper training – they are doing well. But those who are in the clutches of brokers are suffering. So. she urged everyone to be aware of this. Referring to the learning and earning campaign launched by the government for freelancers, the Prime Minister mentioned that now the country has started reaping its results. Freelancers are bringing home foreign currency, which was unaccounted for earlier. Currently, there are enough employment opportunities in the country and people are earning more.
A day laborer used to earn taka 200-300 per day, now can earn taka 600-1000 per day depending on the type of work. Now the Minimum income is 500-600 taka. In rural areas, the income is more than this amount in the season of paddy harvesting, the wage amount including three meals a day is 700-800 taka. The rural economy has improved a lot. If one goes to rural areas, it will be seen that the standard of living in rural areas has improved a lot. As people become affluent, there is sometimes a shortage of workers. A lot of diversity in foreign employment is increasing, and Bangladesh is lagging behind. The demand for skilled foreign workers in the Gulf countries has increased significantly, but this opportunity is feared to be missed. Because most of the country’s workers are still unskilled or low-skilled.
Foreign employment has diversified in recent months. Job opportunities are created in various sectors. Skilled workers from the country are migrating abroad for work. However, due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the world economy is now facing a lot of declines and at the moment of this crisis, the number of foreign workers is not increasing in proportion to the number of foreign reserves that need to be in the country. Bangladesh is missing out on this opportunity even though the demand for skilled foreign workers has increased significantly in the Gulf countries. Because most of the country’s workers are still unskilled or low-skilled.
In the 8th Five-Year Plan, between July 2020 and June 2025, the government has set an ambitious target of sending at least 5 million new workers abroad and earning USD 150 billion in foreign remittances. Of these 50 lakhs, almost half will be skilled workers. The 10-point program on foreign employment in the 8th Five Year Plan includes – institutional and legal reforms, capacity building, market expansion, skill development, access to services, access to finance, rights protection, digitization initiatives, private sector engagement, cost of migration and reintegration. But most of these have not been implemented so far.
The government should formulate long, medium and short-term programs for human resource development, including providing necessary training to meet the various needs of foreign employment. Since increasing the country’s remittance flow by sending skilled workers abroad is a medium-term measure of the government, experts suggest that the authorities should take some immediate initiatives.
According to the data, most of the new job opportunities have been created in sales and marketing, cloud, public sector, software development, cyber security and the financial sector. Most Bangladeshis are employed as security guards, drivers and construction workers in the UAE. Besides, Bangladeshis are taking jobs as cleaners, construction workers, security guards and drivers in other Gulf countries. Some low-skilled workers are working in countries like Oman as plumbers, electricians and refrigerator and air conditioner technicians. Some workers can get job opportunities in the IT sector by personally contacting employers online, but their number is very small. Bangladesh has recently started sending health workers abroad. In the last two months, about 1000 nurses and lab technicians have been sent to Kuwait. Skilled technical interns, caregivers, IT professionals and RMG personnel have also been sent to Japan, Australia and Europe among other regions. But this number is very low.
Bangladesh ranked sixth on the list of top countries in international migration and eighth in receiving remittances in 2020. That is, despite sending more workers abroad, Bangladesh’s remittance income is low. Meanwhile, according to the data of the Export Promotion Bureau, EPB, the growth in export earnings in the 9 months of the current fiscal year 2022-23 has been 8.07 percent. However, the main sector of export is the growth of 12.17 percent in the export of ready-made garments. Out of this, there was a growth of 12.63 percent in the export of woven garments and 11.78 percent in the export of knitwear.
However, as a single month, export earnings in the outgoing March fell compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. The target set by the government has not been met. Compared to the previous year, the income decreased by 118.2 million US dollars. And the income is less than the government target of 375 million dollars. However, compared to the previous month of February, the export income has slightly increased. According to EPB data, Bangladesh’s exports of goods including medicines and ready-made garments earned 464 million 394 million US dollars in March. Which was 476 crore 22 lahks 20 thousand US dollars at the same time last year. That is, 11 crore 82 lakh 80 thousand dollars less goods have been exported. As a percentage which is less than 2.49 percent.
A 2022 survey showed that the share of agriculture in total employment has increased and the share of industry has decreased. Note that this data is about the industrial sector as a whole; Separate data was not provided for the manufacturing industry. However, since the Covid pandemic, there has been an increase in layoffs in the industrial sector and an increasing tendency among working people to move back to the countryside. 2.47 crores were employed in agriculture in 2016-17, and it increased to 3.22 crores in 2022. 75 lakh additional people in this sector in five and a half years.
In a country like Bangladesh, where there is surplus labor in agriculture and labor is expected to shift from agriculture to industry as economic growth progresses, the increase in the number of people employed in agriculture and the decrease in the industry must reverse these trends and more work needs to be done. We have to take measures to send manpower to new areas of employment and new countries.
The writer is a columnist and researcher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org