Manpower export to Middle East surges
The number of Bangladeshi workers who headed to the Middle East countries in search of jobs surged 177 per cent year-on-year in the first eight months of 2022, official figures showed.
The opening of the doors following the recovery of the oil-rich nations from the coronavirus pandemic and a higher income thanks to a spike in energy prices owing to the Russia-Ukraine war have boosted the economic activities in the region and lifted the demand for foreign workers.
The energy price hike, which saw the oil price rocket to an eight-year high, has been credited to have pulled the Gulf countries out of a decade-long economic slump.
Crude oil prices plummeted to as low as $20 a barrel at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but it climbed above $100 after Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year.
As a result, energy exporting nations are expected to earn $1.3 trillion in revenues over a four-year period thanks to the current boom, said the International Monetary Fund recently.
Since demand has recovered, Bangladesh sent around 7 lakh workers, or 90 per cent of the total, to the Middle East between January and August, up from 2.53 lakh during the same period last year, data from the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) showed.
The major destinations were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Lebanon.
Of them, Saudi Arabia, which always sits at the top when it comes to hiring workers from Bangladesh, took in 4.72 lakh workers during the period, which was 60 per cent of the total manpower exported.
Oman came second as it received 15 per cent of the workers.
Besides, 75,464 females went to the Middle Eastern countries so far this year, accounting for 99 per cent of 76,579 women migrants who left the country for jobs elsewhere.
More than 7.84 lakh male and female workers went to various countries from Bangladesh until August. Bangladesh's overall export of manpower rose 184 per cent year-on-year in August, according to the BMET.
Currently, one crore Bangladeshi migrants are working in the world while 75 lakh workers are employed in the Middle-Eastern countries.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, general secretary of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), credited the post-pandemic recovery and new development projects for the surge in the outflow of workers.
The proprietor of Sadia International went on to say that Bangladeshi workers are usually hired as construction and maintenance workers, drivers and hospitality sector workers.
Ali Haider Chowdhury, an executive member of the Baira, said a good number of workers have been exported to Saudi Arabia in the post-pandemic period as construction activity has accelerated in the country.
"This has been possible as Bangladesh was able to seize the rebounded demand in the global markets for workers compared to other countries such as India and Pakistan."
In the last two years, importing countries are taking in workers from Bangladesh in the technical sector, said Mohammed Abul Basher, president of the Baira, and chairman of Sarkar Recruiting Agency Ltd.
Usually, Oman takes in masons or plumbers, the UAE is seeking construction workers while Saudi Arabia is looking for more workers in the cleaning sector, he said.
Prof Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, a think-tank focused on migration workers, however, describes the growth natural.
"The increase in the outflow of migrant workers is not unusual. We expect that the number of workers who will go abroad at the end of 2022 will be around one million."
"The pickup in economic activity in the Middle East is attracting more workers from Bangladesh."
The skills of Bangladesh's workers are better suited for the Middle Eastern labour markets, said Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling.
"We have been sending workers to these markets for a long time. As a result, there is already a strong network. But we are not being able to send a higher number of workers to other markets such as Japan since they demand at least semi-skilled workers."
According to Shariful Hasan, head of the Migration Programme and Youth Initiatives at Brac, higher oil prices mean higher incomes for the Gulf region, which is contributing to the generation of more jobs.
Although the manpower export from Bangladesh has increased over the years, the remittance flow has not gone up proportionately.
Remittance receipts rose 12 per cent to $7.63 billion from January to August. It was $6.81 billion during the identical eight-month period last year.
"The government should take initiatives to send more skilled workers abroad to give a boost to remittance earnings," said Hasan.