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Bangladesh can be a labour sourcing option for Japan

The setting up of international standard training institutes across the country can help Bangladesh penetrate the Japanese labour market, as the G-7 seeks to ease restrictions on foreign workers amid a rapidly ageing population.

Sources at the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) and Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) confirmed this to the Dhaka Tribune.

Bangladesh exported a total of 2,232 workers to Japan between 1999 and 2021, with the country recording the highest 420 workers in 2012.

The market share of manpower export in the Japanese market out of the total export is 0.02%, according to statistics of BMET.

As the shrinking population becomes a more serious issue, and if Japan wants to be seen as a good option for overseas workers, it needs to communicate that it has the proper structure in place to welcome them, Toshihiro Menju, managing director of think-tank Japan Center for International Exchange, told the media.

The 2019 law was meant to attract some 345,000 specified skilled workers over five years, but the intake hovered at about 3,000 per month before the Covid-19 pandemic sealed the borders, according to government data.

As of late 2020, Japan hosted 1.72 million foreign workers out of a total population of 125.8 million, about 2.5% of its working population.

Mir Khairul Alam, additional director general of BMET, told Dhaka Tribune on Saturday the training of Bangladeshis on Japanese language and culture will certainly help get better jobs in the G-7 market.

Laying emphasis on learning Japanese language, Khairul said that the government is seeking support of international donors in setting up international standard training institutes in the country.

Noman Chowdhury, founder chairman of Dahmashi Corporation Limited, and a member of Baira, said: "The government should set up international standard training institutes across the country to train our youths in the Japanese language and culture. The government can offer training to students who passed SSC and HSC in Japanese language and culture."

Japan is a lucrative market to Bangladesh against the backdrop of saturating traditional markets in some Gulf countries, Chowdhury also said.

Nepal as an option

He further said that Japan signed a deal with Nepal to recruit workers in different sectors before the pandemic halted its implementation.

In 2018, the Japanese government had decided to hire workers from a pool of nine countries including Nepal, the only South Asian nation on the list, to meet its acute shortage of labour force. As per the plan, Japan was to hire an estimated 345,150 workers in 14 sectors over the five years.

As per the agreement, Nepali workers would only be hired for the nursing care sector.

During the last 25 years, Dahmashi Corporation Limited has managed to employ more than 70,000 workers in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Malaysia from Bangladesh, said Noman Chowdhury.

The company is capable of managing 10,000 workers per month, said the labour export veteran, who has been doing this for 31 years now.

A top official of the Bangladesh Employers Association told Dhaka Tribune that youths with vocational and technical education will have better job opportunities at home and abroad, while those with traditional education will have tough competition in getting jobs.

In the past, the government had launched a six-month training course of Japanese language through 26 technical training centers across the country. Apart from this, various private organizations have also taken initiatives to teach the Japanese language.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japan on cooperation to export skilled Bangladeshi workers in various fields of Japan on August 27, 2019.

The deal was signed in Tokyo between Japan's Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japan's National Planning Agency and Bangladesh's Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment.

The then-secretary for the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment of Bangladesh Rownaq Jahan, and Commissioner of the Immigration Service Agency under the Ministry of Justice of Japan Soko Sasaki signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the respective country.

As per the agreement, for the next five years, Japan will recruit skilled professionals in 14 categories, including care workers, building cleaning management, machine parts industries, electric, electronics, construction, shipbuilding, automobiles and agriculture.

In a significant shift for a country long closed to immigrants, Japan is looking to allow foreigners in certain blue-collar jobs to stay indefinitely starting as early as the 2022 fiscal year, an official from the Ministry of Justice of Japan said last month.

Immigration has long been taboo in Japan as many prize ethnic homogeneity, but pressure has mounted to open up its borders due to an acute labour shortage given its dwindling and ageing population.

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