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Skilled workers' outflow jumps by 36pc in 2017

Professional migration on declining path

Arafat Ara | January 17, 2018 00:00:00

The outflow of Bangladeshi skilled workers surged by more than 36 per cent last year compared with a year ago helped by the government efforts, officials said.

A total of 434,344 skilled workers went abroad with jobs in 2017, which was 318,851 in 2016, according to the statistics available with the manpower bureau. Skilled workers secured jobs in different countries including the Middle East (ME), Singapore, Jordan and South Korea.

However, the country is still dependent on less-skilled and semi-skilled workers. More than 55 per cent of the outbound workers were less-skilled and semi-skilled in 2017, according to the state-run Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).

But the number of professional Bangladeshis marked a declining trend last year. Some 4,507 professionals went abroad with employment in 2017 compared with 4,638 in 2016, the data showed.

Of the total outbound workers, some 401,796 were less-skilled and 155,569 semi-skilled. Among the semi-skilled workers, the majority were domestic helps, BMET officials said.

Migration experts said despite a significant rise in overseas employment in the year gone by, the number of skilled workers was lower. They suggested proper policy support to create quality manpower for overseas job market.

Bangladesh sent a record 1.0 million workers abroad in 2017, highest in the history of the country. Of the outbound workers, more than 100,000 were women workers.

About 0.81 million trainees completed different courses under 70 Technical Training Centres (TTCs) in 2017. The capacity of TTCs rose nearly 17 times of 2009 figures.

The country's skills development sector is still disorganised with serious shortcomings, for which the number of skilled workers is insignificant, sector insiders said.

They also cited the absence of demand-based and country-specific skill training programme as the key reason why Bangladeshis don't fare well in skilled jobs abroad, they said.

Manpower recruiters mainly want to send less-skilled people abroad so that they can exploit workers.

Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, said that while skilled workers can find overseas jobs at no or minimal costs, recruiting agencies prefer to send unskilled people to charge high migration costs.

Bangladeshi workers are engaged as labourers, but Indian and Pakistanis are holding top and mid-level jobs in middle-eastern construction sector, he said.

"Generally, our workers get poor wages and benefits," Mr Haque said, adding that skilled workers are better paid and better protected than their un-skilled counterparts.

In most cases, he said, Bangladeshi skilled workers can't meet international standards, leaving them to be treated as less-skilled.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, joint secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) said the private recruiters wanted to recruit skilled and quality workers. But the existing TTCs are not providing demand-based training.

For this reason, they are sending mostly less-skilled workers, even though the demand for skilled migrants is high, he added.

When asked, director of BMET Nurul Islam said the government had planned to lift the percentage of outbound skilled workers to 50 per cent by 2021 and double by 2030.

Various initiatives have been taken to achieve the goal, he said.

"We have made a deal with City and Guilds, a global skills development organisation to train up our workers," he said, adding that the state agency will provide training in six TTCs.

BMET also will make contract with some international training farms for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for Bangladeshi skilled workers abroad so that they can match with the international standard.

Around 40 more TTCs are also under construction. After completing these training centres, job seekers will get a good opportunity to be well-trained, he noted.

The official figure showed that the number of skilled outbound workers was 229,149 in 2011, 173,331 in 2012, 133,754 in 2013, 148766 in 2014 and 214328 in 2015.

Bangladeshi skilled workers include mechanics, welders, masons, carpenters, electricians, painters, cooks, drivers, plumbers, tailors, blacksmiths, tile fixers and operators.

Currently, Bangladeshis are working in 165 countries.

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