Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

STRUGGLES OF MIGRANT WORKERS

Insurance payouts available only for deaths overseas

This is the sixth of an 11-part series on the challenges faced by migrant workers

Update : 21 Mar 2024, 10:34 AM

Soheli Khatun, a mother of two from Lalmonirhat, ventured abroad as a domestic help in Saudi Arabia, leaving her children under her mother's care.

Tragically, she succumbed to illness within four months, with her death certificate citing HIV positivity. Upon her return to Bangladesh, her father, Ahmadul Haque, sought the promised insurance sum of Tk 3 lakh, only to be denied by the insurance officials due to her HIV status.

At the time, Ahmadul Haque said: “We don’t even know exactly how my daughter died. Don't have any idea what HIV is.” He had no words when asked about how he will raise his two grandchildren.

According to the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment, the government has introduced mandatory “Expatriate Worker Insurance” for Bangladeshi workers going abroad by the end of 2019.

The insurance coverage is set at Tk10 lakh, with expatriate workers between the ages of 18 and 55 eligible for this protection for a duration of five years.

Expatriate workers are required to cover the insurance premium along with additional fees for their exit permit. 

Critical issues such as HIV or suicide-related deaths are acknowledged but remain unaddressed.

According to the calculations of the state agency Jiban Bima Corporation, a total of 3.2 million workers have left for work in different countries since then till 2023.

As of now, a total of 1,397 workers or their family members have submitted claims for insurance benefits. However, many did not get any money due to numerous factors.

The annual report of the Wage Earners Welfare Board for the year 2022-23 says that 1.1 million workers came under compulsory insurance in that financial year. 

A total of Tk31,72,10,000 has been paid as death insurance to the families of 860 workers during the financial year.

Who gets insurance money?

As per regulations outlined by the Wage Earners Welfare Board under the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment, the state agency Jiban Bima Corporation clarifies the conditions under which workers are eligible for insurance benefits. 

These include scenarios such as the worker's return to the country within six months of death, permanent disability, partial permanent disability, or dismissal during the insurance period. 

In the event of natural death or an accident occurring during the insurance period or within 90 days after its expiry, the full sum insured, which amounts to Tk10 lakhs, will be disbursed. 

Furthermore, if a worker returns to the country within six months of being dismissed, he or she is entitled to Tk50,000 under the insurance scheme. However, this benefit will not apply if the employee goes abroad at the full expense of the employer.

However, certain circumstances preclude workers from receiving insurance benefits. These include death by suicide or self-harm within six months of taking the insured risk, as well as death or illness attributable to HIV-AIDS or similar diseases. 

Moreover, fatalities resulting from participation in risky sports or adventurous activities such as motor racing, boxing, scuba diving, horse racing, mountain climbing, and others, are also exempt from insurance coverage. 

Additionally, deaths attributed to alcohol or drug addiction, war or riots, miscreant attacks, and death penalties by court verdict do not qualify for worker insurance benefits.

According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), insurance money is automatically deposited into the worker's bank account only in the event of their death abroad, even if they have not applied for it. 

In all other cases, claimants must actively pursue the insurance money through the claims process. 

However, many workers do not know the insurance procedures, payment regulations, and aviation processes. As a result, this lack of understanding often results in them being deprived of their rightful insurance benefits.

What experts say

Sanchita Talukder, executive director of the Association for Social Development of Bangladesh (ASDB), highlighted the unfortunate reality of migrant workers taking recourse to suicide abroad owing to various reasons. 

She said: “Insurance benefits are not available if the death certificate from the destination country is written as suicide or HIV positive or died in war or riots. The family members of that worker have nothing to do about it. Claims have been made for workers' health insurance besides covering suicide, AIDS or death due to diseases.”

Mosharraf Hossain, the expatriate workers insurance manager at Jiban Bima Corporation, told Dhaka Tribune that meetings have been arranged to make workers aware about the insurance before going abroad.

He said that extensive efforts are being made to inform workers through various training sessions and activities.

Istihak Rayhan, a lecturer at the Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, commended the initiative to provide insurance coverage for expatriate workers, mentioning its significance beyond just addressing the deaths of migrant workers. 

“However, if this information is not communicated to the employees or they are not made aware, then even if there is insurance, it will not be useful,” he said.

He said that as expatriate workers are the main source of remittance for the country, ensuring their safety and well-being through adequate insurance benefits is crucial. 

“Their insurance benefits are more like ensuring the safety of the family. If the state institutions are more responsible in this regard, expatriates will gain confidence and it will strengthen the country's economy,” Istihak said.

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