The overseas labour migration which happened in 1980s from Bangladesh actually benefitted the country’s migrant workers as it had been demand based and it was not forced supply of workers, said Dr. Anwara Begum, Senior Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
In an exclusive interview, she said that the initial labour migration from Bangladesh was demand oriented and there was no forced supply of workers as there was a pull factor of migration.
Skilled workers were then pulled to migrate overseas and they did not need to pay any cost for their migration, she recalled.
The BIDS senior fellow said that Bangladeshi migrants also took their relatives abroad with own initiative despite they were unskilled workers like shopkeepers.
‘Our migrant workers in 1980 could send back 10 to 15 times of remittance, they were able to build their houses as they got benefitted actually,’ she added.
Later the migration started to happen from our side, she said, adding that the workers began to migrate without having idea of job markets and destinations. They migrated abroad seeing the glittering without making them valued.
‘By this ways’ Dr Anwara said that the individual migrants became loser though the country could show the big number of migrants going abroad.
She recalled that during Middle East rising in 2011, there were many Bangladeshis who were forced to return home at empty hand and the country had to lose remittance of Tk 6 million.
‘Since 2007 we started thinking of reintegration. We thought what could be done for migrants returning home.’
On return the migrants tried themselves to do something but the government was yet to help them building small and medium enterprises, she said.
Dr Anwara opined that the labour intensive jobs should be available in the country for engaging the migrants returning home so that their skills could be properly utilized.
She deplored that dalal and traffickers continued to make money for themselves by sending the migrants abroad anyhow without ensuring their jobs.
‘If we see remittance inflow why don’t we see losses? Why don’t we consider migrant workers as resources?’ she questioned.
About future migration, the BIDS senior fellow said that there would be serious crisis of skilled workers across the world in coming days. ‘If we prepare our workers with skill training they can be sent abroad.;
Dr Anwara said that there were huge demands of caregivers and nurses at home and in the developed countries and Bangladesh could avail the opportunity
‘We need five lakh nurse but we have only 56000 nurses’ she said, adding that Bangladesh needs to groom skilled workers to meet its demand first then they could be sent abroad with jobs.
Asked about budget, she said that the budget should be migrant friendly and the government should take steps to establish the returnee migrants with proper training to enable them open business.
‘The budgetary allocations should be used to groom skilled manpower, bail out the migrants establish with skills to work.’
After bail out of the budget, she said that there should be a strong monitoring on how the migrants would be using the money.
‘Budget allocation for safety protection should be enhanced as due to corona, new vulnerable people are created and they should be brought under safety net,’ she added.
Dr Anwara said the ME countries have already had more unemployment problems and they decided to reduce recruitment of foreign workers.
‘So first and foremost we should think of advantage of our migrant workers,’ she said, recalling that in 1980 Bangladeshi migrants would migrate to Middle East, their migration cost was borne by the employers and they became benefitted with high income.