The Bangladesh Bank7 documents remittance flows to Bangladesh from all over the world. It shows that the remittances sent by the overseas wage earners have grown over time. It has increased from a paltry figure of US$ 23.71m in 1976 to US$ 2617.92m in 2002 (Table 5). Nonetheless, the yearly growth rate of remittance is much less than the growth rate of the total number of migrant workers.8 Throughout the last twenty-five years, the remittance flows broadly indicate an average yearly increase of around 10 percent. The most important reason behind such gap in migrant and remittance flows is that in recent times Bangladesh has exported more unskilled and semi-skilled migrants whose wages are rather low compared to those of previous skilled and professional ones. Wage rates have also fallen drastically over the past decade (Siddiqui and Abrar, 2001).
One half of the total remittance came from one country, i.e., Saudi Arabia. Over the years, the US has become the second largest remittance sending country, Kuwait and the UAE being the third and fourth. Short-term migrants use different methods in sending remittance involving both official and unofficial channels. Officially, transfer of remittance takes place through demand draft issued by a bank or an exchange house; travelers’ checks; telegraphic transfer; postal order; account transfer; automatic teller machine (ATM) facilities; electronic transfer and in kind.
Creation of Domestic Jobs
Along with direct employment, migration has also contributed to the creation of employment indirectly. Recent studies (Siddiqui and Abrar 2001, Murshid 2000) have shown that the family members of migrants have used a section of their remittances in generating income and employment. Siddiqui and Abrar’s work finds that 100 families of Tangail and Chitagong spent 11.24% of the remittance in agricultural land purchase, 2.24% in releasing or taking mortgage of land for cultivation, 5% was invested in micro and small enterprises and another 3.5% was utilised in savings, bonds and insurance. 7.19% of the total remittance went into financing migration of other household members (Table 6). Besides, capacity of buying consumable items of the migrant families helps sustain local small businesses and producers.
Demand for better management of migration has created jobs in the public sector as well. A new ministry has been created with a state minister, secretary and other associated staff. 48 skill-training centers, and Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training are some major agencies creating jobs in the public sector. The movement of the migrants also has relevance in determining the size of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Customs and Immigration Departments. Migrants also constitute a majority of the customers of Biman Bangladesh airlines. The presence of airlines of the Gulf and Southeast Asian countries has also created jobs for a large number of people. A powerful private sector has emerged centering around the recruitment industry. Private recruiting agencies, their agents and sub-agents, travel agencies, medical centers, inter state transportation owners and workers, all earn their livelihood by taking part in processing migration9.
The study reveals that short-term migration has been extremely successful in creating a large number of jobs for Bangladeshis. Along with employment of workers in the overseas, it also created jobs within Bangladesh. In the public sector a few agencies and a Ministry has been created to manage migration. Facilitation of migration has created jobs in the private sector as well. Recruiting agencies, their agents and sub-agents, travel agencies and medical centers.
Analysis of nature of overseas job shows that market of Bangladeshi labour is changing all the time. New countries of destinations have emerged. In the early years of short-term migration, skilled and professionals used to migrate more. Now Bangladesh has created a niche in the unskilled and semi-skilled market. Over the years, remittances have increased in absolute terms, however, per capita remittances has declined. Remittances sent by the migrants have a major impact on the national economy.
4. right at work There are three sources of rights at work for the short-term migrants of Bangladesh. These are, international instruments, laws of the countries of destinations and Bangladesh, and bilateral agreements between Bangladesh and the receiving countries. In this section, the sources of right at work will be elaborated. This is followed by an assessment of the rights enjoyed by Bangladeshi migrants in practice.
Sources of Rights International Instruments
ILO is the oldest organization dealing with migration of labour. The first session of the International Labour Conference in 1919 highlighted the issue of equality of treatment between nationals and migrant workers, coordination of migration policies between states on the one hand and between government, employers and workers organization on the other (ILO 2001). The most important among the instruments framed by ILO regarding migrant workers are the Migration to Employment Convention (Revised) 1949 (No. 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143) and the Migrant Workers Recommendations (No. 151). Convention No. 97 came into force in 1952 and Convention No. 143 in the year 1978.
The 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (ICMW) is the most comprehensive instruments concerning the migrant workers. It ensures rights to both regular and irregular, male and female migrants. It upholds that migrants are both social and economic being. It is important to note that none of the labour receiving countries of Bangladesh has ratified the ILO Conventions or the UN Convention on migration. Bangladesh also did not ratify the ILO Conventions. It has signed the UN convention but did not ratify it yet. Therefore, the migrant workers of Bangladesh cannot receive protection through these instruments.
In order to manage and provide better protection to the migrants different measures have been undertaken by the government of Bangladesh. It has promulgated new ordinance, statutory regulatory orders, framed rules etc.
In 1982 GoB promulgated an Emigration Ordinance. The new Ordinance is the key regulatory instrument in respect to migration. The Ordinance only allowed persons with valid travel documents to emigrate. A letter of appointment or work permit from a foreign employer or an employment or emigration visa from a foreign government is considered to be a valid document (Sec 7/3/a). A person who is selected by a foreign employer through an organisation or a recruiting agent recognised by the government under an agreement between two governments will also be allowed to emigrate (Sec 7/3/b). The Ordinance also empowers the government not to allow emigration of persons of a particular occupation, profession, vocation or qualification in the public interest (Sec 8/1). Under the Ordinance, the government is authorised to grant licenses to individuals and companies who wished to be engaged in recruitment for overseas employment (Sec 10). The Ordinance empowers the government to cancel and suspend licenses and forfeit security deposit if it is satisfied that the licensee’s conduct has been improper or is in violation of the law or prescribed Code of Conduct. However, such actions could only be taken after the licensee was given an opportunity to explain his position (Sec.14/1). Illegal emigrations are punishable for a term of up to one-year imprisonment with a fine not exceeding Tk. 5000. It also contains provisions for penalising unlawful recruitment efforts (Sec 20). Under the Ordinance, the recruiting agencies are prohibited to charge higher than the prescribed amount of fees for their services (Sec 23). The Ordinance has provisions for penalising individuals who, in breach of contract with foreign employers, abandon their employment (Sec.24).