Grooming skilled workers is an opportunity for Bangladesh, a densely populated country, to avail the offer of foreign jobs and boost the foreign currency inflow to the country. It is true that skilled manpower become a global demand to meet manpower shortage in the developed countries from East Asia to West Europe.
Japan has recently opened its doors to the skilled workers of nine Asian countries under a new visa system. In December, 2018, Tokyo took the decision to allow Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to send their skilled workers to Japan.
Japan introduced the new visa system to bring in more foreign workers in a major shift in policy though traditionally, its strict immigration rules did not permit expatriates to work in Japan.
Foreigners with certain Japanese language and job skills can now apply for resident status called Specified Skilled Worker No. 1, which grants working rights in 14 sectors, such as construction, farming and nursing care, for up to a total of five years, says the report.
Proficient laborers in two sectors -- construction and shipbuilding -- can further extend their stay by earning the Specified Skilled Worker No. 2 status. It would allow the holders to bring in family members with no limit on the number of times they would be entitled to renew their visa.
The Japanese government expects up to 345,150 foreigners to acquire the No. 1 type visa over the next five years, with the largest number of 60,000 workers expected to be in the nursing care business, it says.
The first delivery of the visa could possibly be seen from mid-April to applicants who are already in Japan and seek to change their status, according to a senior Justice Ministry official, says the report.
The introduction of the system, based on the revised immigration control law enacted in December, represents a major change for Japan, which had limited the issuance of working visas to people with professional knowledge and high skills, such as doctors, lawyers and teachers.
The British government has recently sought Bangladesh’s engagement in their skills-based immigration system with provisions for skilled workers, likely to be enforced in the context of the departure from the European Union.
According to New Age report, the British home minister Sajid Javid made the request in a letter on December 19 to his Bangladesh counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan.
Sajid Javid said he looks forward to discussing the matter in the next round of strategic dialogue between the two countries in April 2019 for formalising a new arrangement after the UK’s departure from the European Union.
‘Leaving the European Union means we have the opportunity to take full control of our borders and introduce a new immigration system that works in the interests of the UK. A system built around the skills and talent people have – not where they come from,’ he said as the UK was planning to become more open for business with the rest of the world.
‘We will introduce, as a transitional measure, a time-limited route for short-term workers of all skill levels,’ the British minister said.
The UK government published a white paper on December 19 setting out its proposals for the UK’s future skills-based immigration system after the exit from the EU.
The future system would support the British economy and public services enabling employers to access the skills they need from around the world with strong control over who can come to the UK and on what terms.
From 2011, UK Immigration Rules would apply to EU and non-EU migrants alike in a single immigration system which selects people on the basis of their skills and talent as opposed to nationality, according to a summary of the proposals in the UK’s future skills-based immigration system that was attached with the letter of the British minister.
The UK would introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme for visitors and transit passengers who do not currently need a visa to come to the UK.
The UK would also reform the current sponsorship system making it more streamlined reducing the burden of employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises who are unlikely to be familiar with the current system.
The British authorities would introduce a mechanism allowing temporary short-term workers to go to the country for 12-months, as a temporary measure, with no rights to settle, bring dependents or access to public services.
The British government is modernizing the enforcement and compliance system to make better use of data to identify immigration offences to enable employers and service providers to easily confirm a migrant’s status and entitlements through the provision of new online checking services
What is expert saying?
Bangladesh needs to standardise country-specific skills training and certification fulfilling requirements of the overseas destinations to get benefitted from skilled labour migration.
Centre for Policy Dialogue research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem told New Age that Bangladeshi skilled workers and professionals were failing to access the global labour markets for lack of standardisation.
He says that Bangladesh has to achieve its position in the international labour markets with quality products and grooming skilled manpower.
‘For sending nurses to the European countries or Japan, the nurses should be groomed with EU or Japan standard training,’ he says, adding that the certificate accreditation is also necessary to be done by their authorised institutions for entry into their labour markets.
A separate wing should be assigned to standardise the certificates for the skilled workers aspiring to migrate to overseas destinations.
‘Labour migration is a demand-driven market,’ he notes, adding that the demand from each country and even city should be explored.
He finds it deplorable that Bangladesh still remains busy with supply side without giving attention to the demand side requirement. As per the demand, workers should be made ready, he reiterates.
He observes that skills-based migration from Bangladesh has been taking place on a limited scale to Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea.
In the Middle East countries, Bangladesh sends mostly unskilled workers and small number of engineers, doctors and professors.
‘Employers in the Middle East are keen to recruit semi-skilled and skilled workers from India and Sri Lanka,’ he mentions.
Bangladesh lags behind in exploring labour markets for skilled workers and professionals mainly for branding and networking problems.
‘Bangladesh is branded as a country sending cleaners, not doctors and engineers,’ he says, adding that such image should be removed in the destination countries.
‘Foreign employers think that the prospective skilled workers are nor competent like other nationals from Sri Lanka and Philippines. Such notion should be broken down,’ he added.
He called upon the government and the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies to make interventions with targeted investments to strengthen networking system in the countries of destinations.
Through Bangladesh missions, interventions in foreign media can be made to change image, he suggests, adding that foreign recruiting agencies should be motivated through information that skilled workers and professionals are being groomed in the country.
There is no doubt that the sending of skilled workers will boost inflow of remittances, he notes.
One skilled worker can get the wages equivalent to that of four unskilled workers, he says, adding that the Philippines send workers abroad half of what Bangladesh sends but they earn double the remittances Bangladesh earns every year.
The Philippines groomed workers with country-specific training at its province level, he said, adding that programmes should be taken on skill-based market requirements.
About technical and vocation education, Moazzem suggests that local vocational institutes should have joint venture programmes with institutes of foreign countries to get accreditations on skills certificate.
He says that technical students should be given training on spoken language along with practical classes on trades to let them become skilled workers.
About the migration cost, the CPD researcher says that there is no imminent possibility of reduction in the cost of migration as it was mainly dependent on demand and supply.
As there is lack of jobs inside the country, many workers are trying to go abroad paying competitively increasing money, he points out.
He, however, says that transactions of cost should be made transparent to help cut the cost.
Moazzem states that the government to government negotiation should focus on increasing wages of the migrants at destinations to adjust cost of migration.
Asked about quality vs quantity, he says that once the philosophy of sending workers abroad was poverty reductions through employment generations. ‘Now the situation has changed and skills upgrade is needed,’ he says, adding that time has come to blend the number with quality.