The government is planning to introduce a new insurance scheme offering more facilities to Bangladeshi expatriates from December this year as the existing insurance policy will expire in late 2022.
The new plan, to be implemented by state-run Jiban Bima Corporation, includes raising the insurance coverage up to Tk5 lakh from existing Tk4 lakh, reducing the premium and extending the policy to five years from two years.
This means Bangladeshi expats will be eligible for the insurance support upon death or serious injuries during the insured five-year period.
Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, told The Business Standard that they would expand the scope and benefits of the insurance further.
"The government is working to make formal channels more attractive so that more people go abroad and send money back home. We will implement the new insurance policy soon," he added.
According to the new insurance plan, the one-time premium will be Tk200-Tk250, as the amount is now Tk490.
Jiban Bima Corporation says it is planning such a policy after being instructed by the high level of the government to provide special benefits to the "remittance warriors".
The new scheme also offers support to expats if they have to return home after losing jobs six months or one-year after the migration, according to the corporation.
However, the corporation says there is no available data about how many workers return home every year after losing their jobs.
The state-run insurer said it will finalise the scheme after getting the information from the Wage Earners' Welfare Board.
Jiban Bima Corporation prepared the new plan on 28 July following a review meeting on the insurance benefits provided to expatriate workers on 12 April. Representatives of Wage Earners' Welfare Board, Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited, Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment and Financial Institutions Division were present in that meeting.
In that meeting, the corporation was asked to submit an insurance plan with more facilities to the expats.
"Expatriates are dignified people of the country. They are now the life line of the country's economy. As remittances sent by them play an important role, the new scheme has been designed to give them better services," Saiful Islam, managing director of the Jiban Bima Corporation, told The Business Standard,
Jiban Bima insurance is mandatory for all Bangladeshi nationals travelling abroad for work. The Wage Earners' Welfare Board collects premiums on behalf of expatriates and deposits it with the corporation.
In 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave instructions to mandate insurance for all outward-bound workers. In December 2019, she inaugurated the insurance scheme for the expatriates.
Referring to the PM's measures, Saiful Islam said everyone in the policy-making level wants to provide the expats with more facilities.
According to corporation officials, the insurance was Tk2 lakh in the beginning with a premium of Tk990. The duration of the insurance policy initially was for two years.
In December 2020, the Wage Earners' Welfare Board signed a new contract with Jiban Bima Corporation after the deal expired. The premium was then reduced to Tk490, coverage increased up to Tk4 lakh and the policy period kept unchanged.
This deal will expire in December this year, paving the way for the new scheme.
The secretary of the expatriates' welfare ministry said the government is taking initiatives to identify what problems the expatriate workers face in sending remittance home through a formal channel. Representatives from the ministry, the central bank and the banking sector will visit major overseas job markets to see various other problems of Bangladeshis working abroad, he told TBS, referring to the government's plans for the welfare of remittance earners. "We are working to enhance facilities for expatriate workers at Bangladesh's airports. We are also trying to ensure better services for them in our missions abroad," Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said, stating a wider insurance coverage will be among a slew of things planned to serve remittance warriors better.
Moreover, ongoing services like legal support and loan facilities will be made more effective while steps will be taken for proper re-integration once expatriates return home, he added.
A good business too
In Bangladesh, around 6 lakh workers go abroad per year. Since launching the insurance in 2019, the corporation is getting Tk490 from each of the workers.
As youths comprise a big chunk of the outward-bound workers, Jiban Bima Corporation has been facing fewer insurance claims – raking profits for the state-run organisation every year.
According to the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, the corporation received Tk53.34 crore as premium for 853,573 workers from December 2019 to 2021. Against the premium, Jiban Bima had paid Tk2.72 crore insurance claims of 103 expatriate workers.
A Jiban Bima official said an insurance claim is lodged only when an expatriate dies abroad. They usually do not get a claim even if the workers sustain serious injuries.
"The sick or injured people do not file insurance claims as they are abroad. Besides, the corporation cannot verify such a claim if the claimant is not in the country. Therefore, we give priority to insurance claims in case of death," added the official while talking to TBS on condition of anonymity.
Chowdhury Rafiqul Abrar, executive director of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) told TBS that an extensive campaign should be carried out so that the expatriates know the details of the insurance scheme and get the maximum benefits of the initiative.
He said the process of getting insurance benefits or the process of insurance claim should be made much easier so that expatriate workers or their families get the desired service without hassles.
Premium should not be given as a subsidy, Dr Abrar suggested, as he felt that expatriates would own the insurance scheme once they pay the premium themselves.