Labour market demands revisit of perception
Our endless plight in international labour market is regularly doing the round on the media. This unveils how we are losing grip on the Middle East that once lured us as a key source of foreign remittances: lifeline of our national economy next to the apparel sector.
According to a report, recently published in a Bengali newspaper the number of workers returned by the end of last year from 28 labour markets across the world is as many as 326758 and workers sent to different manpower importing countries are 250000 falling three times shorter than government's target of 750000. Experts say a growing tendency among local owners of recruiting local workers in various sectors is leading to the expulsion of foreign workers from the Middle East. Moreover, war-torn situation in those countries including Covid-19 impactis equally responsible for shrinkage of labour market forcing ultimate return of workers to their homeland.
This bad time for us for manpower business is not merely confined in the Middle East; its ominous shade looms large on other parts of the world too. Reasons behind such fall of overseas job scopes are manifold. This crisis will not find a silver bullet solution in the pandemic ridden world of colossal economic, political and societal change. Business and monetary transactions almost everywhere in the world has come to a halt due to lockdown. Under present global reality, a trend of containing flight of domestic money to other countries is keenly observed.
On the backdrop of ongoing Covid-19 this conservative trend has become even stricter than it was after 9/11 when an all pervasive panic of extremism seized the world laying the poor Islamic nations in tatters. Leading global economies mostly reliant on labour force from under developed countries have already begun tightening their borders and checking inflow of people from outside. In addition to this, if the ongoing adverse relation between Iran and the US further worsens, military tension will spread throughout the Middle East resulting in further fall in labour market prospect.
This policy of constraint by the healthy economies, however, will not be fully able to stop illegal immigration. External glosses and lure of better life will as usual draw unemployed youths from developing states risking their own lives. In pursuit of a better future they will try all possible illegal perilous means. We often come through media how their dreams while crossing violent sea embrace watery graves capsizing boats.
Bangladesh is no exception to this. The news of a mass grave of Bangladeshi expatriate workers discovered in deep forest of Thailand and many falling to death in desert being hunger stricken are not distant memories. Limited resources, increasing unemployment, over-population and natural disasters- all compel our educated young generation to opt for overseas jobs. These helpless and innocent people are getting mindless target of human traffickers and unscrupulous man power export agencies mushrooming in the country.
Reports of many of our people languishing in jails in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and facing adversities such as: unfriendly behaviour, torture, cheating and even death bring forward the questions about the role of concerned authorities, high commissions and embassies to foreign countries. Many female workers are reportedly becoming victims of physical and sexual abuse in the Middle Eastern countries. The inhuman and unsafe working conditions our workers are being forced to face reflects indifference, mismanagement and inefficiency of our concerned regulatory bodies.
The prospect of our labour market in the Middle East that ushered in a new era during the last BNP regime, regrettably fell flat due to successive governments' unidirectional foreign policy and their failure to create alternative market for Bangladeshi work force. In order to tackle this gruesome situation, incumbent government needs to take initiatives to find new place to explore labour market. Our workers are often heard to be earning lesser wages compared to that of other countries due to lack of necessary skills and linguistic command.
Post Covid-19 labour market in a changed world with added use of artificial intelligence and automation will be a grim reality for us if we fail to respond compatible with the neo-world requirements. Moreover, cost-effective labour from famine stricken African nations like Somalia and Ethiopia will pose a real threat to nation like Bangladesh.
Needs of hour is to pay due attention to the reasons behind our decline in man power prospect. There is no alternative to rein in ubiquitous corruption and irregularities that enormously marred our domestic regulatory system and tarnished image in outer world.
Couple of years back I learned from an article that against the decreasing number of active people in developed world the number of those aged under 24 in Bangladesh is almost 50%. And this is the high time for Bangladesh to take the supreme advantage of demographic dividend.
The writer is poet