As the Malaysian market is opening to Bangladeshi workers after around three years, employers in Malaysia have applied to their government till 10 March for hiring around two lakh Bangladeshi workers.
Sector insiders expect that the number will increase in the coming days as the process of applying through the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS) of the Malaysian human resource ministry will continue till 25 March.
The Malaysian authorities are assessing the demand submitted by the country's employers. After the assessment, Malaysia will recruit workers for all sectors from Bangladesh including plantation, agriculture, manufacturing, services, mining, construction and household service, Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Saravanan told the Malaysian media on Thursday.
However, the process to recruit Bangladeshi workers has not been finalised as a debate over syndication in labour recruitment in Malaysia is swirling around, especially after Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard on 19 December 2021.
At the heart of the debate is a syndicate of 25 Bangladeshi agents and 250 sub-agents mentioned by Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Saravanan in a letter to Bangladesh Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad on 14 January this year.
In response to the letter, Minister Imran Ahmed proposed allowing all the legal Bangladeshi agencies to send workers.
Both the Bangladeshi and Malaysian recruiters have also opposed the proposal of syndication.
Explaining the Malaysian minister's comment, Ahmadul Kobir, a Bangladeshi journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, told TBS, "Earlier, the employers had to apply in FWCMS through agents in Malaysia for recruiting workers. But now the employers are bound to apply directly to FWCMS."
Malaysia is home to around eight lakh Bangladeshis, according to an unofficial estimate.
"We are waiting for a joint working group meeting to discuss the next steps for sending workers according to the signed MoU. We sent a letter in this regard, but we did not get any feedback yet from the Malaysian side," Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, secretary of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry, told TBS.
"We have sent a list of all the registered Bangladeshi recruiting agencies to Malaysia. Now, they will decide about the recruiters who will be involved," he added.
There are around 1,400 registered recruiting agencies in Bangladesh.
A system detailing how Malaysia will take people from the recruiters, how they will conduct medical tests for workers, whether they will give visa in Bangladesh or after the workers reach Malaysia will be finalised at a meeting of the Joint Working Group, Abul Bashar, former president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), told TBS.
Malaysia suspended hiring Bangladeshi workers in September 2018 over allegations of malpractice in the recruitment process through a syndication of 10 agencies.
After a hiatus of over three years, Malaysia officially reopened its labour market in 2021 to Bangladeshi workers for five years until December 2026.
To meet the growing demand of workers following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Southeast Asian country has started hiring workers from potential countries, and as part of the move, the Malaysian cabinet on 10 December last year decided to resume the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers.
"Don't care for Malaysian market if there is syndicate"
The local manpower recruiters said a corrupt group of recruiting agents in Bangladesh and Malaysia has created a syndicate to exploit the workers.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of Baira, told TBS, "We have never accepted the syndication of recruiters. Our ministry is also in favor of allowing all the registered recruiters, not a selected few."
"Currently, we are sending more than one lakh workers per month to different countries, excluding Malaysia. So, if the Malaysian part continuously puts pressure on Bangladesh to follow the recruiters' syndication, we would not send workers there as we have available jobs in other destinations," he added.
In a statement on 4 December, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) said the country needs over six lakh foreign workers by the next year for the industrial sector, especially the export-based companies, to overcome the current acute manpower shortage it is facing.
The association found a shortage of skilled general workers, technicians, mechanics and engineers in Malaysia.
The manufacturing sector and sub-sectors like food and beverages, chemical and chemical products, metal and rubber products have the highest demand for workers.
Malaysia has also identified Bangladesh as a second source country for migrant security guards based on an earlier MoU signed between the countries.