Foreign job creation reaches a new height this year breaking recent records even though the country saw a decline in remittance inflow amid the global economic slowdown.
Around 10.24 lakh Bangladeshi workers were sent abroad till November this year, according to data from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
On average, the country sent 93,000 workers per month in 2022, and the number was around 60,000-70,000 in the pre-Covid period, Bureau data shows.
The country has exported more than 76,000 workers in November alone, Md Shahidul Alam, director general of BMET, said, adding that if the upward trend continues then foreign jobs will hit a record 11 lakh by December this year.
Industry insiders have linked the rebound of overseas employment with the reopening of the Malaysian labour market and brighter Gulf economies buoyed by rising oil prices and the normalisation of the Covid situation that allowed new aspirants to go to their respective destinations.
Besides, increasing the quota for Bangladeshi migrants at all Saudi firms to 40% from 25% has contributed to this record growth, they said.
Overseas employment crossed the 10-lakh mark earlier in 2017 but started to decline in the following years, bottoming at 2.17 lakh in 2020 due to the pandemic restrictions.
However, quality labour migration is yet to be ensured as the majority of the outgoing workers are deemed unskilled or low-skilled. Skilled workers would be able to fetch in more remittances, said experts.
"Bangladesh has been able to send a record number of workers this year as expected due to an increased labour demand in Middle Eastern countries after Covid and new workers going to countries like Malaysia and the UAE," said Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
Mentioning that workers have not yet gone to Malaysia as expected, he said, "We had hoped to send more than two lakh workers to Malaysia alone in the last six months but only 25,000 have gone so far. The 25 agencies originally responsible for sending workers could not work efficiently."
"We should focus on sending skilled workers to the countries of Eastern Europe," Shamim Ahmed added.
Saudi Arabia, the top destination for Bangladeshi migrants, generated 57% of all overseas jobs till October this year, followed by Oman, UAE, Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait, Malaysia and Jordan.
Shahadat Hossain, the proprietor of a recruiting agency 4-Site International, told The Business Standard, "Most workers in Saudi and Oman, have been employed for cleaning, construction jobs and domestic tasks with a monthly salary of Tk25,000-Tk30,000. In addition, some have been hired as security guards and drivers in the UAE with a monthly salary of Tk35,000-Tk40,000."
Besides, some skilled and semi-skilled workers made their entry into different countries as plumbers, electricians or technicians of refrigerators and air conditioners, he added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (Boesl) has set a record by sending more than 4,000 workers to South Korea by October this year through the Korean Employment Permit System (EPS) which ensures high salaries, labour rights and other facilities.
Among the European destinations, Italy recruited more than 5,000 Bangladeshi workers this year.
Around 1.3 crore Bangladeshis have been employed abroad between 1976 and 2021, according to government data.
However, Bangladesh is still considered a source of low-skilled workers.
Around 74% of the labourers who migrated in 2021 are unskilled, according to the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU).
"Enhancing migrant skills does not mean discouraging the unskilled from migrating. Relative income gains tend to be large for unskilled migrants," Zahid Hussain, former lead economist of World Bank's Dhaka office, told The Business Standard recently.
Meanwhile, remittance flow into Bangladesh went down heavily in November as many expatriate Bangladeshis continue to prefer informal channels for sending their money.
Expatriate Bangladeshis sent $1.55 billion in remittances in November, down by 5.48% from the previous month and 26% year-on-year, according to data from Bangladesh Bank.
"The introduction of a uniform dollar rate by banks for remitters is one of the key reasons for the fall," Dr Zahid said, pointing the finger at different greenback rates for the white-collar and blue-collar Bangladeshis abroad.
The white-collar job holders are getting Tk107 for remitting through the formal banking channel. But blue-collar job holders, who are getting paid in bank cheques, are being offered Tk99.
Zahid Hussain said a small number of expatriates are white-collar job holders, which is only 10%. More than 90% of the expatriates do blue-collar jobs.