Labour migration and migrants issues to achieve SDGs
The labour migration was considered as less engrossed sector of Bangladesh in early 90's, nevertheless the importance of the remittances earned by overseas workers has been considered as major economic stake of the country. Before 2001, only the BMET (Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training) was the main regulatory body of the workers migration under labour ministry. Realizing the importance of labour migration as the second largest source to earn foreign currencies, the government in 2001 established the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment.
After that, a number of measures have been taken like, legislating acts, policies, rules to monitor the overseas Recruiting Agencies (RAs), skill enhancement and controlling the demand and supply of labours at global market. However, in 2011, Bangladesh entered to a new era when the government ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families 1990. Since then, government has been bringing many changes in the migration governance and monitoring system. Moreover, at global level, being a top most overseas workers' Country of Origin (COO), Bangladesh emerged as leader to protect its overseas workers' right in different global platforms including GFMD.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. Total 17 goals have been selected to achieve within 2030 by all countries--developed and developing-- in a global partnership. This Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in short is the follow-up of the past goals Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is well mentionable that, being a low income country, Bangladesh showed eye catching performance in achieving success in lowering mortality rate, increasing safe child birth, quality education and poverty reduction in the MDGs.
Migration as an integral part of economic as well as social development of Bangladesh by different means increase reserve of foreign currency by sending remittances, transfer and adaptation of skills and technology, poverty reduction, and cultural development. Such they are significantly contributing to achieve sustainable development goals. Bangladesh government considers the SDGs as succession tools to achieve its Vision 2041, for which the national Five Years Action Plan has been prepared considering the goals and targets stated in the SDGs.
Though the labour mobility, remittances and human migration has been directly addressed in goal number 8.8, 10.7 and 10.c, different studies, research papers, articles and media reports has been showed the analytical relation between migration and other goals of SDGs as well. The government needs to address these issues in their national action plan.
As a multidimensional issue, migration could connect with other goals of SDGs as well. In terms of reduce poverty, labour migration could play pivotal role. For achieving food security, the migrants' families are also playing proactive role in making investment in rural infrastructure development, agriculture, livestock and fisheries enterprises--enhance agricultural productive capacity of the country. For ensuring skilled labour migration from Bangladesh, the government emphasized on the technical and vocation education both for the male and female equally (goal no. 4.3. and 4.4.), which ultimately will ensure employment, decent work and enterprise development.
For last couple of years, the female migration from Bangladesh is increasing. Majority of them are migrating to GCC countries as domestic workers. Unfortunately, some incidents of exploitation of female workers and pre-mature return of domestic workers have happened in last few years. Achieving gender equality and empower all women to reduce gender based violence and discrimination in wages, working hours and working conditions are mentioned in 5.1., 5.2., and 5.4.. Hence the government must recognize the female migrants, and has the scope to merge the issue with national action plans.
The goal number 8 of SDG states 'Promote sustainable, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all', are directly integrate the migration and migrant workers. However, the goal no. 8.3. narrated to promote decent jobs, the 8.7. stated to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and the goal no. 8.8. states to promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrants. However, only promoting sustainable economic growth and decent work for all cannot ensure the equal rights of the people.
Therefore, as per the goal 10.4 to adopt policies regarding wage and social protection policies; goal 10.7 to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration including the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies; and goal 10.c. to reduce transaction costs of migrant remittances less than 3 per cent the government has the scope to take actions, formulate policies and adopt strategies to reduce inequality to access social and economic services and protect themselves.
The SDGs kept the scope for any government to protect the rights of its overseas workers in international arena in formulating and enacting laws, rules and acts under the goal no. 16.3,--which narrates to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all including the migrant workers. Our government also has the scope to improve the migration governance system--recruitment by RAs, service delivery by TTC and DEMO etc as per the goal no. 16.6.
Through adapting transformative encounters and strategies for upholding economic growth, reducing poverty, and employment generation, and tackling the COVID situation, Bangladesh now emerging as global leader not only in migration sector, but also prove itself as a upcoming economic giant in South Asia. It is significantly advancing to achieve the goals and targets of SDGs in line with its national development plans and policies. At domestic level, the government enacted different laws, acts and policies to make migration safe, orderly and regular. Nonetheless the challenges still remain in its migration management.
Increasing skill manpower at service providing institutions, strengthen capacity for undertaking strong diplomatic negotiation with Country of Destination (COD), effective implementation of acts and laws, strengthen the capacity of LEA (Law enforcement agents), maintaining database of skilled migrants, and capacity to produce technically skill workers etc could overcome the challenges to reduce the migrant workers vulnerability to exploitation, pre-mature return, become undocumented and illegal migrant. It is expected that, the coordination among the activities of public, private and civil society could create favourable environment from where the Bangladeshi workers feel secure to migrate anywhere and contribute more to the national economy.
The writer is a migrant rights activist