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Move to collect RMG sector foreigners' info hits a snag

Only 52 BGMEA units give data so far

Monira Munni | July 08, 2019 00:00:00

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BGMEA) move to collect information on foreign nationals working in the country's ready-made garment (RMG) sector has got poor response from its member units.

Almost all the members of the apex apparel trade-body are reluctant to provide information in this regard, sources said.

As a result, until June 30, only 52 factories - out of its about 4,500 member units - have provided information about their 177 foreign personnel, they added.

Out of the 177 foreign employees, some 48.6 per cent are from India, 25.4 per cent from Sri Lanka, 13.0 per cent from China, 8.4 per cent from South Korea, 1.7 per cent each from Pakistan and Turkey, and 1.1 per cent from the Philippines, according to the BGMEA data.

It showed that majority of them or 27.1 per cent are engaged in production section, followed by 11.30 per cent in quality control, and 9.0 per cent in sewing.

Besides, 6.2 per cent are engaged in marketing, 5.6 per cent in each of industrial engineering and sample sections, 4.5 per cent in technical, 3.4 per cent in maintenance, and 0.5 per cent in research.

The BGMEA issued a circular on April 29, seeking the foreign personnel's information on an emergency basis.

It is necessary to identify local skill gap for sustaining the growth of RMG industry, and to know especially how many foreigners are working here and in which posts, the circular read.

It also asked for other information including the foreigners' name, post, duration, and nature of work (temporary or regular), nationality, and their monthly salary.

When asked, the BGMEA President Dr Rubana Huq said, "We expected detail information from our members. Their response gives a sample, but it does not reflect the whole picture."

She said they will keep on pushing all the members, and will seek the information from them again.

In October 2015, the BGMEA asked its members to provide lists of the foreign staff working in their companies to the trade-body, following the murders of two foreign citizens in Dhaka and Rangpur, sources said.

But most of the BGMEA members did not respond to the call, they added.

The industry insiders opined that thousands of foreigners are engaged in RMG sector, including in garment factories, buying houses, and local liaison offices of global buyers and brands.

The foreigners, working in Bangladesh, are mostly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, South Korea and some European and African countries.

Besides RMG, they are also engaged in IT sector and some other manufacturing industries.

But many of the foreign workforce are illegally staying in Bangladesh, even after expiry of their work-permit.

For this and some other reasons, most of the garment factory authorities are not interested to provide the list of their foreign employees to the BGMEA, they added.

Three government agencies - the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), the NGO Affairs Bureau, and the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) - issue work permits for the foreigners.

However, there is no integrated list of foreigners, working in Bangladesh, for lack of coordination among the government agencies concerned.

If the country could employ its own skilled manpower in these foreigners' positions, a huge amount of foreign currency could be saved, while more employment opportunities for local people could be created, they opined.

Sources said minimum US$ 5.0 billion in total flows out of the country annually due to hiring of these foreign nationals, in addition to reduction in job opportunities for local people.

According to the Industrial Police (IP) data until August last year, some 4,013 foreigners were working in a total of 7,331 factories in Dhaka, Gazipur, Chattogram, Narayanganj, Mymensingh and Khulna districts.

The units located in Dhaka metropolitan area are out of the IP's purview.

Out of the 7,331 factories, 3,411 are RMG units, while the rest 3,920 are non-RMG factories.

Some 2,112 factories are members of the BGMEA, 1,072 are members of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), 404 are affiliated with the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), and 394 are listed with the BEPZA.

The highest 1,319 foreigners were found employed in some 1,098 factories in IP Zone 3 - Chattogram, followed by 925 in Gazipur, and 901 in Dhaka.

In February last year, the parliament was informed that a total of 85,486 foreign nationals are working in different sectors in the country, of whom 67,853 are owners of business enterprises.

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