At least 60% of the families are totally dependent on remittance for their daily expenses
The flow of remittance has taken a heavy hit in recent times, with Bangladeshi workers in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Malaysia, Singapore, and other countries effectively rendered jobless by shutdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
According to Bangladesh Bank, the country received remittance of $1.7 billion in December 2019, $1.64 billion in January this year and $1.45 billion in February.
Data provided by the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) shows that in January 2020, a total 69,988 people left Bangladesh for work in different countries, mostly in the Gulf. The number reduced to 59,139 in February and the BMET website has not been updated since, due to the suspension of cross border travel.
Families who depend on remittance are struggling to meet expenses for food and other basic needs.
According to the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), 85% of the daily expenditure of families of overseas migrants comes from remittance, while 60% of the families are totally dependent on remittance for their daily expenses.
Tasneem Siddique, chair of RMMRU, said: “If the situation lasts too long, families of overseas migrants will suffer for their basic needs. Already, some families are changing their food habits due to shortage of funds. They are eating only rice, lentils and potatoes, which may lead to malnutrition. Day by day, they will lose purchasing power. As our economy largely depends on remittance, the whole economy will suffer when families reduce the buying of goods.
“There is an urgent need to announce a package for the protection of families of expatriates. Allocations only from the wage earners fund is not sufficient,” she added.
Md Monto Hossain runs a small grocery shop at Barka in northern Oman. He is now stranded at home with no income, due to the lockdown and suspension of travel to limit the spread of Covid-19.
“It was a very small shop with limited income. Now, all shops and everything else is shut down in Oman. I have no Income,” Montu said.
“Many Bangladeshi workers who work in construction projects and the informal sector were forced to go back to Bangladesh. Almost all became jobless. Companies are not paying salaries, although some are paying half salaries,” he added.
“There is no allowance for workers from the government as well. Those people are suffering the most. My customers were Bangladeshi and now I am in trouble,” Montu lamented.
Md Shohag works at a grocery shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said: “Most Bangladeshi workers work on construction projects. There is no work now. Bangladeshi workers who work under agents are very vulnerable. Jobless Bangladeshi workers are buying their necessities with loans.”.
Sujon Taj, from Saudi Arabia, said: “The workers who came here on free visas have no job, no salary, and no allowance. Some construction workers are jobless.”
Tasneem Siddique said: “According to international law, during a pandemic everyone has the right to stay and get protection wherever he is. In future, the government should stop sending people with free visas.
“The government has to take up the issue in multilateral forums, to protect our citizens abroad,” she added.