International labour migration has rapidly gained prominence as one of the main employment generating sectors and the largest source of foreign exchange earnings in Bangladesh. Over a period of 33 years between 1976 and 2008, Bangladesh has sent through regular channels alone more than 6.26 million migrant workers mostly to Middle Eastern countries.
In 2008, 875,055 migrant workers (97 per cent men) found employment abroad. The remittances sent by migrant workers through legal channels alone also touched the peak in 2008, amounting to over US$ 9 billion. While international labour migration presents benefits of reduced unemployment at home, poverty alleviation and better standards of living and security for migrant workers and their families through higher wages and remittances, and sharing of skills and technology, majority of migrant workers in Bangladesh do not enjoy the full benefits. Challenges include:
- High fees for migration charged by recruitment agencies, especially for low skilled jobs with the highest charge;
- Low wages for Bangladeshi migrant workers in overseas jobs due to low skills and qualifications (Fifty per cent of the total migrant workers are low-skilled workers);
- Lack of information on migration opportunities and risks;
- Indecent working conditions, and risks and vulnerabilities to discrimination, exploitation and abuse during overseas employment;
- Insufficient services and service delivery to protect the rights of workers and to provide social security to the workers and their families;
- Lack of support on resettlement of migrant workers back home or to prepare for further employment overseas; and
- Limited opportunities for female migration workers.
The ILO Office in Bangladesh in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF), the National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE), and social partners, is working to improve labour migration policy and its application to promote decent work for migrant workers. In addition, the ILO has published a number of publications on migration. The past and current activities include:
- Regional Symposium on Deployment of Workers Overseas: A Shared responsibility (Dhaka, 2008) with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC);
- Awareness raising and advocacy for UN and ILO instruments on migration in cooperation with the Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants (WARBE) (2008);
- HIV/AIDS sensitization programmes for female migrant workers prior to their departure overseas in cooperation with the Bangladeshi Ovibasi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA)(2008/09); and
- Technical assistance to the Government of Bangladesh to develop and implement improved labour migration policy (2007-ongoing).
For further information please contact:
Mr Shahabuddin Khan
House # 12, Road # 12, Dhanmondi R/A