The success story of Bangladesh is erected on the shoulders of strong export earnings from the RMG sector and the heavy flow of remittances from migrant workers. Historically, migration has been a common livelihood strategy of Bangladeshi people. During the 1970s, the labor markets in the Middle East offered new scope for Bangladeshi migrants. So far, the Bangladeshi labor market is only concentrated on the low-income work forces, Bangladesh needs to harness the opportunities in the high-income work opportunities abroad for its nationals. To take an ease with a large unemployment problem, skilled labor facilities can be put in an important scope to diversify the overseas employments.
When the world is bumping into a recession due to the Corona pandemic, considering the deepest since the Great Depression, the flow of remittances has played an important role in boosting the economy of Bangladesh amid the hard time. Bangladesh became an exception among top remittance recipient countries which is approximately $19.8 billion in 2020, an 8% increase on the previous years $18.4 billion.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Bangladesh became one of the three largest remittance-recipient countries that registered a rise in inward remittance last year. The other two countries are Mexico and Pakistan, enumerated a remittance inflow upsurge of 9% and 4% respectively in 2020 compared to 2019. However, it seems that the remittances flow is going downward from September 2020 (See table below).
Though a sharp rise in remittance inflows is a relief for Bangladesh’s economy, remittance inflows from five countries, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Italy and Bahrain, witnessed a decline. This decline indicates that in the coming months, Bangladesh may see a further decline in remittance inflow as over 60,000 migrants have returned home from these countries. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported that 450,000 expatriates returned home before restrictions were imposed on international travel.
Most Bangladeshi migrants have lost their jobs because they were working as a labor force in these countries especially in the petroleum sector. Besides,the Middle Eastern countrieswant to send back Bangladesh nationals who are already in deportation center in the aftershock of Covid-19.So, it is high time we think about making more high-skilled and professional migrants to retain the remittance inflows.
Middle East is one of the most destination region for the immigrants from South Asia. Bangladesh is not against the tide in this regard.For example, Saudi Arabia is the largest destination country for Bangladeshi migrants where most of them are unskilled and low-skilled labor force such as agricultural workers, construction workers and driver. Professional and skilled workforces are on greater demand especially technicians and higher-level skills for manufacturing, qualified professionals in education, health, retail trade, construction workers in these countries as a coping strategy for globalization and information revolution. Bangladesh needs to focus on this sector through creating G2G bilateral partnership with the hosting states. Government should strongly deal with the matter diplomatically with job destination countries to take back the shipwrecked workers. Fresh job opportunitiesfor overseas job seekers in the highskilled and professional immigrant categories also need to be created.
As the migration opportunities in the Middle East countries is shrinking day by day in the postCovid new normal, Bangladesh may assess the cost-benefit analysis of „contract farming‟ in Africa which proposal has already initiated with barely any steps. It has already evidenced that in the individual level, for 15 to 20 years, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs in different parts of the world, including Malaysia, the Middle East and Africa, have occupied a unique position in „contract farming‟. At the state level, the Bangladesh government needs to put special emphasis on the skilled agro-workers in the farming sector abroad to find a substantial alternative to tackle the aftershock and to maintain durable economic growth through remittances inflows.
Whilst a country like Saudi Arabia is trying to approach the „contract farming‟ in Africa, why not Bangladesh? Bangladesh has a traditional relation with Africa. The father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib made exertions to strengthen political and business relations with Africa. Besides, Bangladesh in many African states worked and has been working to maintain peace and stability which creates a positive image for Bangladesh.
In a report Shykh Seraj, an agricultural development activist, professed that neighboring country India and other countries started contract farming in Africa taking land lease for 99 years, Bangladesh has yet to initiate such actions although some war-torn countries in Africa invited Bangladesh to produce agricultural products on their immense, fallow and agriculturally fertile lands. To run the economic wheel of Bangladesh, there is no alternative to diversifying its economic sectors. The benefit of contract farming is three-fold for Bangladesh- easing the unemployment through transforming the human burden into human resource, reducing pressure on national scarce lands and creating the scope for food security as well as foreign currencies.
With the discussions above, key recommendations need to assert here includes-
- Both the Government andthe private sector collectively need to formulate a comprehensive migration policy on skilled manpower reflecting both long and shortterm strategies.
- Most importantly, the information of available skilled labor and contract farming opportunities along with the benefits and rules and regulations using various media and training need to be institutionalized.
- Proper language, professional and commercial training to build a skilled human resource is necessary for increasing the manpower exporting opportunities. Notable to mention here is that the Premier of Bangladesh declared that 40 technical training centers in
Upazilla levels would be opened soon along with the existing 70 centers in the Mujib Year. However, the scope for high-skilled manpower supplies to abroad needs to be widened.
- The government of Bangladesh must develop anall-inclusive plan of action for “country wise targeting” to enable potential emigrants from Bangladesh to compete with other countries and to change the perception that Bangladesh is a supplier of “unskilled and low-skilled workers”.