Despair in Bangladeshi Migrant Workers: focus on 2009

Rubayat Ahsan

Rubayat Ahsan

Friends of migrant workers at wire fence, Courtesy,

Bangladeshi migrant workers have turned into a group of people who are blessings for this poor and small nation state in terms of remittance. On an average, 2,50,000 people annually (1995-2003) migrate to take up overseas employment migration to Middle East and South East Asia had been observed on short-term contract since independence.


abroad as short-term migrant stands at more than six million. Number of migrant workers jumped up from 5 digits to 6 digits in 1989. On an average, more than 2 lac. labors per year migrated between 1996 and 2005. Around 3.8 lac. migrated in 2006 where as this rate jumped dramatically upward and around 8.3 lac migrated in 2007 a well as 8.7 lac in 2008. According to BMET record number of total migrant labors till date is 62,65,909. On the other hand, remittances have been increasing gradually. The amount of remittance in 2007 and in 2008 is subsequently US $ 6568.03m and US $ 9019.60m. Total remittance earned till 2008 is US $ 56993.1m. Currently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Libya, Bahrain, Iran, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Mal Deeps, Hong Kong and Brunei are some of the major countries of destina tion. Half of the total migrant labors work in Saudi Arabia; Malaysia was the second largest host of Bangladeshi labor; and now UAE has became the second largest host after the 1997 financial crisis that hit badly Malaysia. The major weakness of BMET is that the agency only records migrating labors and not the returnees. If the data of returnees are accounted the statistical data could sound bad. Labor migration is an integral part of global economy and Bangladesh has cut a good figure in this context. Though there had been some downturns such as 1997 economic crisis, 9/11 terrorist attack in Twin tower and consequent security concern, and the 2008 meltdown of global financial market; labors have not stopped migrating to look for work around the world. Migration brings the blessings of remittance besides transfer of skill, knowledge, ideas, links, and interpersonal relations that become very influencing factor in economic and social development. 3% of the global populations are international migrants who contribute the global monetary flow. In the context of Bangladesh, only 6 million migrant labors have changed the development concept and scenario by flowing remittance into the country. The high time of labor migration seems over after the hit of recent global economic recession. According to World Bank, remittance flows are expected to slow significantly

i. Significant flow of laborii data show that from 1976 to 2008, the total number of Bangladeshis workingfrom 6.7% in 2008. The Bank expects remittances to fall by 0.9%. In the worst case

scenario, they may fall no more than 6%.

Remittance matters for country’s economy in the era of globalization

Remittance is contributing significantly to country’s economy these days. In the recent past remittances were equivalent to 56.1% of total export earnings. Remittance could finance 36.6% of total imports and were almost 9 times the FDI flows to the country. We have also come to know that remittance is around 4 times more than total foreign aid received. It has significantly increased Bangladesh’s national income; it is equivalent to 11% of GDP. It is reported that 75% percent of remittances comes from the Middle East and 25% percent from the West. By 2015, the target is about $ 30 billion dollars and right strategies must be put in place to meet the goal.

Though global financial meltdown has become a curse for market economy and obvious job cuts of thousands in many countries, persistent remittance flow in Bangladesh is a hope in the midst of such a crisis. During January to July 2009, the country has received Tk. 605 crore remittance and 2,88,903 labors got work permit to migrate. Government has taken some bold steps to open ‘labor wings’ to 7 new Bangladeshi Missions besides canceling license of 8 recruiting agencies during last 6 moths. In addition, the authority has issued 10 new licenses in this connection. Government expects that remittance will be more than 10 billion this year and very much optimistic. As Walden bellow notes, “Capitalism in the neoliberal era destroys jobs at home and creates them elsewhere, forcing many into dangerous transboarder journeys to find those jobs. Unregulated as it is today, capitalism is marked by periods of expansion and contraction. When contraction arrives, the lot of the migrant becomes a perilous one… ”. According to Bello most migrant workers would probably prefer to stay and work in their countries of origin if they could find the jobs that would provide them with a decent living. He also notes that remittance economy is not substitute for a vibrant domestic economy. Though there are lots of negative realities of migration but the neoliberal globalization has made it obvious for skilled and unskilled labors to desperately look for jobs elsewhere in the world. And in such a situation, both countries of origin and the host societies should respect and protect rights and dignity of migrant workers.


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