Foreign remittance is one of the mainstays of our economy. It is the second-largest source of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Millions of people, especially those living in rural Bangladesh are largely dependent on remittance, while its contribution to GDP is around 12 percent. Our migrant workers are a major source of foreign remittance. Most of them are employed as low-skilled labourers in the Arabian Gulf countries, employed as construction workers, domestic helps, gardeners, caretakers and other blue-collar jobs. But we are shocked to learn that around 111,111 Bangladeshi workers returned home from 23 countries after losing their jobs during a period from April 1 to September 6. This has been revealed in parliament by the expatriates welfare and overseas employment minister while replying to a question-answer session.
Most of the migrant labourers have returned home turning pauper, and are now in great distress facing an uncertain future. Many of them even do not know whether they will at all be able to return to their workplaces as validity of their visas are about to expire soon. The plight of female migrant workers is beyond description. International Organisation for Migration has already warned that the number of returnee migrant workers would be multiplied by the end of the current year which is alarming indeed!A senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies expressed her concern that the returnee migrant workers may turn into huge burden if the crises are not addressed. However, there is a consolation. It is that the government has decided to provide Tk 5000 million as loan assistance to overseas workers through Probashi Kalyan Bank. Wage Earners’ Welfare Board will also distribute another Tk 2000 million to the returnee workers.
Here is a humble suggestion meant for our policymakers. The services of skilled migrant workers can be utilised at home according to their suitability. Others who aspire to do business, they can be provided with small loans to try their luck. The government should also continue its efforts for absorption of the returnee workers in overseas jobs after alleviation of coronavirus pandemic.