Stakeholder consultation on revision of the Overseas Employment Policy 2006

The first stakeholder consultation to revise the Overseas Employment Policy took place on 15 May 2013 at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment and was attended by about 65 representatives from civil society organizations, academic experts, workers’ and employer’s organizations.

The Ministry of Expatriates ‘Welfare and Overseas Employment (MEWOE) has initiated a revision of the Overseas Employment Policy 2006, with the objective to elaborate a new instrument taking into account current challenges and opportunities for Bangladesh and its workers in the sector of labour migration. The policy to be developed is to provide a comprehensive labour migration framework with a particular focus on the protection of migrant workers. The revision process includes a number of stakeholder consultations with academic experts, representatives from civil society, employers’ and workers’ organizations, in order to ensure an inclusive and pertinent policy formulation.

The first stakeholder consultation was convened on 15 May 2013 at the Ministry and was attended by about 65 representatives from civil society organizations, academic experts, workers’ and employer’s organizations.

In her welcome address, Mrs. Begum Shamsun Nahar, Director General of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), emphasized that “policy directions that would guide to decent work conditions in employment and uplift the standards of living would be given urgent attention by the government. Provisions of quality social services, such as skills, occupation health and safety, protection at the work place in employer provided housing should be relentlessly pursued”, referring as well to the Overseas Employment and Migrant Worker’s Act 2013 to be passed by Parliament.

The ILO Country Director, Mr. Srinivas Reddy, thanked the Ministry for seeking assistance from ILO to revise the Overseas Employment Policy and looks forward to support a revision that “takes into account the trends and performances in overseas employment both in terms of quantity and quality of employment and ensures that the new draft of the policy is evidence based”. Mr. Reddy also emphasis the need “to ensure protection of the Bangladeshi workers’ rights, and particularly decent terms and conditions of the employment in the countries of destination, and to provide equality of opportunity to all women and men in the working age group”.

Mr. Hazrat Ali, Additional Secretary, chaired the Consultation and delivered the key note address, as the Minister was unable to attend the consultation due to unforeseen commitments. Mr. Ali stressed on the need to develop an Overseas Employment Policy, which takes into account contemporary realities such as aging populations in destination countries and international labour market development and prospects.

The technical Memorandum of Comments on the Overseas Employment Policy 2006 submitted by ILO to the Ministry was presented by Ms. Nisha, Chief Technical Advisor. The review of the policy is conducted against the ILO Labour Conventions and the 1990 UN Migrant workers Convention ratified by Bangladesh, but also looks at provisions from the two ILO Conventions 97 and 143 related to migrant workers and standards from the non-binding Multilateral Framework on labour migration 2006. She emphasized on requirement for the policy to comply with obligations of the state, the national employment framework, gender issues, social security and trade union rights. In the process, the need to find a right balance between promoting employment abroad and protecting workers is to be found.

In two distinct sessions followed by discussions, Professor Barakat from the Human Development Research Institute (HDRC) presented key findings from five research studies commissioned to inform the policy revision process. The studies cover policy-relevant areas such as skills and certification, recruitment and migration costs, remittances, contribution from diaspora and gendered mainstreaming of migration into the national development.

Participants to the consultations made valuable comments and provided numerous inputs to be taken into account in the new Policy. The need to strengthen protection mechanisms to support migrant workers in the countries of destination was raised by different stakeholders, highlighting the crucial role of the Bangladeshi missions and labour attaches on site. Issues such as health and social protection while abroad and upon return were also raised by the participants, in particular for women and most vulnerable migrant workers. Discussions also showed recognition of the positive role to play by the private sector when engaging in recruiting activities with social responsibility commitment, and the need for the government to install efficient oversight mechanism to regulate recruitment and labour migration.

Based on inputs and guidance from this initial round of consultations and discussions, a new Overseas Employment will be drafted and submitted for comments in further consultations with stakeholders and ministries in the first part of July 2013.

The policy revision process is carried on with technical support from ILO through the Project “Promoting Decent Work through Improved Migration Policy and its Application in Bangladesh”, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).