Language Skills a Key Factor for Migrant Worker’s Empowerment

Returned migrant workers from the Middle-Eastern countries identified language skills as key factor for workers empowerment and in ensuring better working relations with the employer

A consultation with returned migrant workers from the Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Dubai identified that lack of language skills affected their relationship with the employers and caused frustration on both sides. All workers felt that language skill would have empowered them.
An implementation partner of the ILO, BRAC Institute of Languages (BIL) organized the consultation at the Nagar Doridra Bostibashi Unnayan Sangstha (NDBUS) office in Dhaka. BIL is implementing a sub-project titled “Establishing Language Labs at the Technical Training Centres” in close cooperation with the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
The returned migrant workers who participated at the consultation spent three months to four years working aboard. All workers but one who was a care-giver, worked as domestic workers in the countries of destination. A few of the attendees received housekeeping training from TTC and private organization.
Some of the workers who went without any training, didn’t speak at all for the first few months. They expressed that lack of language skills affected their working relationship with the employers and caused unwanted difficulty. The workers were not able to understand or respond to the instructions of the employers and were also unable to discuss their needs, living related problems and issues related to wages. The workers who understood and spoke a little Arabic, shared that they were treated better by the employers.
The workers shared commonly used words with their employers and the employers’ family members. At the consultation, the workers competed to demonstrate their language skills in Arabic. Most of the workers present had learnt the language on their own while working with the native speakers. The workers, who showed working knowledge of the language, were able to identify the differences in vocabulary that is taught in some of the language trainings and vocabulary that is actually used in the countries they worked in. An interesting finding from this consultation was that those workers who complained of being abused by the employers were also to willing to aboard again for employment if they were to receive relevant vocational and language training.

The consultation was geared to draw more experience based language needs of the workers when they are in a country of destination. Discussions on language needs were informal and revolved around:
  1. Countries where the workers were employed
  2. Specific trades in which they were employed
  3. Whether or not they received trade related technical or vocational training or not
  4. Whether or not they received some language instructions before departure
  5. Usefulness of language trainings and language skills from the workers perspectives
  6. Communication dynamics between the employer and the migrant worker
  7. Differences between the language as taught in Bangladesh and the actual usage abroad
  8. If the workers intend to migrate for work again
  9. If they do, would they want to take language and trade-related training before departure
  10. Which other languages, in addition to Arabic and English, should be taught before departure
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been providing technical assistance through the “Promoting Decent Work through Improved Migration Policy and its Application in Bangladesh” project to the Government of Bangladesh for strengthening labour migration governance in Bangladesh. This project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. In addition working with the lead ministry and the ILO constituents, namely, workers and employers organizations has pursued a variety of partnership models with research, educational, civil society and government organizations.

“Establishing Language Labs at the Technical Training Centres,” sub-project will develop teaching and learning material for Arabic and English language training to the workers going to the Middle-east and English speaking destination countries. The course material will be used for the language labs to be set up in two of the BMET’s Technical Training Centres (TTC): Bangladesh-Korea TTC and Sheikh Fazilatunnessa Mujib Mohila TTC in Dhaka.

For Further Information Please Contact: 

Md. Nizam Uddin, Additional Director General (Training), BMET:
Nisha, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO: