FE Today Logo
Search date: 11-02-2023 Return to current date: Click here

Creating skilled workforce for local and overseas markets

February 11, 2023 00:00:00

Though Bangladesh is the world's sixth largest exporter of migrant workers, its place as a remittance earner is the eighth. The reason is that the migrant workers going abroad every year are mostly unskilled ones. Last year, the country sent the highest number of migrant workers abroad in its history numbering around 1.135 million. But unskilled workers made up the highest percentage of those migrant job seekers.

As the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) recently reported, the share of the unskilled labourers rose to 78.64 per cent till November last year compared to what it was over the same period in the previous year (2021). But during the same period, the percentage of outgoing skilled migrant workers decreased by 3.57 percentage points in 2022. So, it is not hard to imagine why Bangladesh is trailing behind its competitors like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines in its share of the remittance sent home by overseas wage earners. In this situation, there is no gainsaying the need for producing more skilled workforce whose earning will be higher than the unskilled labourers. And that is true of both the domestic and the international labour markets. Interestingly, against this backdrop, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which hosts the largest number of Bangladesh's migrant labourers-last year, 54 per cent of the country's outgoing migrant workers headed for the KSA-has made skill certification mandatory for all foreign workers. Under an arrangement called the Skill Verification Programme (SVP), certificates will be provided to those who want to join, what sources informed, better-paying jobs as plumbers, welders, electricians, automobile and refrigeration mechanics. For the purpose, the willing candidates will have to pass the competency test to see if they have the required skills to work in the aforementioned fields of work in the KSA. Bangladeshi migrant workers will also be required to pass the test and obtain the necessary certificate before they can leave for KSA to get any job in those five sectors.

The good news is Bangladesh's Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) is learnt to have reached an agreement with Takamol, a Saudi government agency, to hold skill tests under SVP. What is of significance for Bangladesh is that two local training institutes, namely, the Bangladesh Korea Technical Training Centre and the Bangladesh German Technical Training Centre, have been selected to conduct the skill tests under the SVP. That no fees will be charged from the candidates taking part in the said tests is indeed great news for the local skilled workers looking for job in Saudi Arabia. As the KSA-bound migrant workers obtaining the certificates under SVP would qualify for better-paying jobs, the country's remittance earning from them will also be higher. It is equally true for others who might choose other overseas destinations as migrant workers.

The fact is, of the around 12 million Bangladeshis residing as migrant workers abroad, close to half (47 per cent, to be specific) are unskilled. Small wonder that the country's inflow of remittance is remaining so low. But the situation would change radically if the migrant workers possessed different skills to earn more. In that case, the government would do well to seize the opportunity and set up more skill training centres to generate a large army of skilled workforce who can contribute more to the nation's foreign exchange reserve.

Share if you like