The UAE has stopped recruiting Bangladeshi male workers since 2012
Overseas employment from Chittagong has witnessed a decline in recent years largely due to a gradual contraction of the labour market in Middle Eastern countries.
Labour market analysts say higher cost of migration, violence against female workers, malpractices by recruiting agencies, shortage of skilled workers, and lack of sufficient diplomatic activity to boost bilateral relations are some of the reasons behind the dip.
They also say that the fall in manpower outflow will have an adverse impact on remittance.
According to the Labour Force Survey published by the General Authority for Statistics of Saudi Arabia, the unemployment rate among Saudi citizens has now risen to 12%, shrinking KSA's labour market.
The UAE has stopped recruiting Bangladeshi male workers since 2012.
Although Malaysia opened its door to Bangladeshi migrant workers in 1992, it suspended recruitment in 1997, 2009 and recently in 2018 following allegations of malpractice and labour exploitation.
According to Chittagong District Employment and Manpower Office's data, a total of 26,768 overseas job-seekers left Chittagong for Saudi Arabia in 2017. However, the number declined to only 7,688 in 2018.
Similarly, a total of 17,530 migrant workers left Chittagong for Oman in 2017, which has now fallen to 15,776 in 2018.
Likewise, a total of 9,211 outbound workers left Chittagong for Qatar in 2017. But in 2018, the number decreased to 8,856.
Around 60% Bangladeshis working in the UAE and 70% in Oman originally come from Chittagong.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Md Jahirul Alam Majumder, deputy director of the District Employment and Manpower Office, said they were focusing more on quality than quantity regarding overseas employment.
“The government has undertaken various initiatives like setting up Technical Training Centres in every upazila of the country to enhance skills of the migrant workers," he explained.
The government is exploring new labour markets across the globe to reduce dependency on the old ones."
Asif Munier, a migration specialist, said Bangladeshi migrant workers could send home more remittance if they were skilled and proficient in English.
“The overseas labour market is now going through a rough patch. To regain the overseas labour market, the Bangladesh government should boost relations with manpower-importing countries," he recommended.
Asif explained that a focus on preparing a skilled workforce for the service sectors would help recapture the market.
Migration cost to go up as airfare, medical fees rise
Private manpower recruiters have expressed the fear that the cost of migration may go up due to increasing airfare and fees of different medical tests.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) leaders expressed the concern at a press conference held at its office on Tuesday.
They said they would not able to comply with the government-fixed migration cost if the fees of medical tests and airfare do not come down.
Baira President Benjir Ahmed said the medical fees for migrant workers increased by Tk5,000 per worker and the airfare in international routes increased by 80-100%.
BAIRA Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said: "The government should immediately start discussions with [manpower exporting] countries to look into the [overseas employment decline] matter."