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Malaysian labour market: Govt tries to get ban lifted

  • Published at 09:29 pm November 4th, 2019
airport workers
File photo of workers returning to Bangladesh from various countries Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Expat minister flies to Putrajaya to negotiate new labour recruitment policy

The government is negotiating a new policy with the government of Malaysia for reopening of labour exports as the inflow of remittances from the country has been on the decline for the last few months due to official closure of recruitment from Bangladesh.

Malaysia is the third largest manpower export destination for Bangladesh with annual remittance receipt of $1.1 billion but inflow of remittances from the country fell drastically to $99.7 million in September from $114.77 million in July this year. 

In last August, Bangladesh fetched remittance from Malaysia $106.56 million, official data show.

The Malaysian authorities banned recruitment from Bangladesh in September last year on ground of widespread allegations of charging higher cost from labourers by recruitment agencies through middlemen. 

The government there also announced that it would launch a new policy in 2019 restricting excessive charge and harassment of labourers. 

Since then, Bangladesh held a series of meetings with the Malaysian government demanding a early reopening of the labour market.

In the latest development, Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed, who is leading a high-powered six-member delegation of his ministry, left Dhaka for Putrajaya last night to negotiate terms and conditions fit to recruiting manpower from Bangladesh at reduced cost and in a hassle-free way, official sources said.

The minister will meet his counterpart M Kulasegaran of the Ministry of Human Resources of Malaysia to negotiate the new policy. 

Contacted over phone by Dhaka Tribune, the minister declined to make any comment saying he was in a hurry to get prepared for the tour. "Returning, I will tell you everything," he said. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) President Benjir Ahmed, MP told Dhaka Tribune that there should be no syndicate of recruiting agencies like before in sending labour to Malaysia.

He said policy framework was important to ensure hassle-free manpower export to Malaysia at reduced cost and it required fair competition of all 1,200 recruiting agencies holding valid licences.

"Our demand is to free manpower export from syndicate of influential recruiting agencies at both ends — Bangladesh and Malaysia. Otherwise, migration cost would not be fair and justified," Benjir said.  

Baira is the apex trade body representing manpower recruiting agencies in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, a former Baira president said there were allegations that a syndicate of several influential recruiting agencies was monopolizing the recruitment business and charging as high as Tk4,00,000 or 20,000 Malaysian ringgit per worker, which aggrieved the Malaysian government. 

Genuine cost, estimated by the Malaysian government, was Tk40,000 or 2,000 Malaysian ringgit, he informed.

Wishing anonymity, he said an influential Malaysian company in connivance with some local companies in Bangladesh was involved in syndication to charge higher migration and pre-travel medical cost.

"After the issue came to light, the Mahathir-led government initiated the ban in 2018 and announced a reform in 2019 in the foreign worker recruitment policy," said the former Baira executive. 

According to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), the country sent 1,75,927 workers to Malaysia in January-September of 2018 . 

Till September 2018, more than 10 lakh Bangladeshis secured jobs in Malaysia, which came down to 8.34 lakh in 2019 as there was no new recruitment while many returned expiry of contracts, the BMET data show.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia employs the highest number of around 40 lakh Bangladeshis while the United Arab Emirate has around 23 lakh Bangladeshi workers as the second largest destination for them. 

A total of 1.15 crore Bangladeshi migrants are staying and working in different countries across the world.

They sent a total of $ 15.7 billion inward remittance last year, the BMET says quoting Bangladesh Bank data.