The labour market in Malaysia is going to be opend to Bangladesh workers again after four years from next February.
The opening of the Malaysian labour market will certainly be a blessing for Bangladeshi overseas employment sector as the latter is passing a very crucial time because of the drying up of flow of its workers to some major markets in the Middle East.
The Southeast Asian nation already announced to recruit nearly 1.0 million foreign workers and it showed keen interest to hire significant number of laboueres from Bangladesh for its various sectors including manufacturing, plantation, service, agriculture and construction.
Nearly 0.5 million Bangladeshis are expected to get jobs in the newly reopened labour destination. Initially Malaysia will hire laboureres for its tree plantation sector where the country needs nearly 30,000 labourers to meet up its immediate demand.
Workers will require to bear a total cost of only Tk 40,000 each for the migration purposes under the sate-to-sate arrangement, as has been announced by the ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment in Bangladesh.
Each of the recruited by Malaysian government workers will get a minimum wage of Tk 25,000 (900 Malaysian ringgit) per month and their accommodation and meal will be provided by the employers. The contact period of workers will be for five years in three phases - initially for two years, then for another two years and finally for another year.
If the ministry concerned can tap the potentials properly the Malaysian market could be helpful for reducing unemployment rates as well as ensuring a stable remittance inflow for the country.
Bangladesh's economy is heavily depended on remittance as it is the second highest source of foreign currency after the readymade garments.
So there is no scope to overlook this important sector. Rather it should get necessary attention.
For many years the country's remittance inflow has been smooth. The World Bank predicts that Bangladesh will receive $14 billion remittance during the current calendar year which is high compared to $12.17 billion received in 2011.
But the flow may not be as smooth as it is now in coming days as the outflow of overseas job seekers has been declining since last August following an embargo slapped by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the manpower recruitment from here.
The UAE became the largest Bangladeshi manpower receiving country for after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Kuwait shutting their doors to these workers.
The oil-rich country recruited more than 25,000 workers each month before August which has now come down to almost zero.
The number of workers leaving the country to take up jobs abroad has declined by nearly 50 per cent due to the shut down of the UAE market.
The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) data showed only 31,281 Bangladeshi went abroad for jobs in November last but it was 62,713 in last July.
As nearly o.6 million workers already went abroad in the last 11 months so any major negative effect on the manpower export figure of 2012 is unlikely.
But if the gap is not filled up next year, the sector will be facing a major setback.
Many Bangladeshi migrant workers staying in the KSA and the UAE are suffering a lot as they either do not have valid documents or have finished contact period.
Any time thousands of Bangladeshi migrants might be deported from those countries. And that's done the country's employment sector would suffer a serious set back along with drop in remittance.
So the authorities should take diplomatic initiatives to resolve the present crises with the countries concerned in the Middle East and try to reopen the markets there.
Earlier a delegation of the Bangladesh manpower ministry visited the KSA and had talks with top officials to resume the market. The employer placed conditions to Bangladesh to reduce migration cost and irregularities in recruitment.
The manpower minister also had assured that they would take proper measures to help open up the KSA market. But any progress is yet to visible in this connection.
Besides, Iraq is also a potential market for Bangladeshis; despite political unrest some Asian countries like India and Nepal already have started sending manpower to the oil-rich country.
But due to lack of proper diplomatic efforts, Bangladesh has not been able to start sending workers formally to that country.
According to the private manpower recruiters, Bangladesh is in a tough competition with Nepal and India in Iraqi job market.
More than 100,000 Bangladeshis including doctors, nurses and other professionals worked in Iraq before the war. Iraq had stopped recruiting Bangladeshis for nearly 20 years since the first Gulf War in 1991.
Qatar also needs thousands of workers for its development activities as the country is the host of world cup football 2020.
Qatar is also very much interested to deploy Bangladeshi worker. But Dhaka could not take necessary diplomatic initiatives with the country until now.
In this case, the manpower ministry should come forward to foster strong relations with that country for sending workers there.
At the same time Bangladesh has to go for diversification of manpower market while trying to resolve problems with the existing major manpower destinations.
Although the concerned ministry officials has claimed that they are sending workers to around 155 countries in the world but the outflow of manpower to countries the usual ones has been vary thin.
Nearly three or four big markets should be made available to ensure smooth growth of overseas employment.
One of the leading manpower exporting country, Sri Lanka, has 13 large job markets.
But Bangladesh does not follow the technique, and it always depends on the traditional markets such as Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait for manpower export.
Anytime a country can stop manpower recruitment or send back migrants workers to their home countries because of political unrest.
Bangladesh faced a major shock when the big employers like Iraq and Libya deported Bangladeshis following political troubles. A lot of people did not get opportunities to go back again there or others countries.
Besides, if the country can ensure regular flow of migration, the people will not take chance to go abroad wring unauthorised routs and means and fall prey to unscrupulous manpower agents.
Earlier the manpower export authority planned to go for new job destinations but they had totally failed in exploring new markets due to lack of proper policy and guideline in this regard.
Then they listed 16 countries for the purpose. The countries are: Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Rumania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Australia, New Zeeland, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Manpower officials also visited some of these potential destinations, but they could not create any new job market.
Bangladesh's manpower sector is mainly dependent on Middle Eastern countries. Now nearly 80 per cent labourers are working in Middle Eastern countries with low wages and in sub-human conditions.
Most of them are working as construction worker, driver, helping hands at farms, gardener, domestic workers etc.
Among 8.0 million Bangladeshis migrants in the world a total of 25,95,237 went to the KSA from 1976 to 2011, 2073530 to the UAE, 538,430to Oman, 479,648 to Kuwait, 227001 Bahrain, 180,919 to Qatar, BMET data showed .
But there is substantial demand of some professionals like nurses, caregivers, IT (Information Technology) technicians, caterer etc in the European courtiers where the Bangladeshis can be employed and earn high wages.
The remittance inflow may increase manifold if the country sends skilled manpower. Bangladesh now sends nearly 60 per cent unskilled and semi -skilled workers abroad who earn low wages.
Besides, the bilateral relations with Bangladeshi manpower employing countries need to be stronger so that the former can negotiate properly with the employers to gain more facilities for the workers.
India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines and Indonesia, generally hike high wages for their workforce and also ensure safety because they have strong diplomatic relations with the receiving countries.
A lot of migrant workers return home having tortured physically and defrauded financially every year, but the local authorities really take any actions against the manpower agents concerned of rehabilitating the victims.
The writer is a staff reporter of the FE