Recruiting syndicates must be controlled strictly, experts say

Manpower exports from Bangladesh to Malaysia resumed after three years yesterday following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Human Resources Minister M Saravanan and Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed signed the much-awaited deal on behalf of their respective sides in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, there is no barrier to sending Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia, according to officials.

Earlier, the Cabinet of the Government of Malaysia approved a new recruitment process.

The new MoU is more worker friendly but recruiting syndicates must be kept in check to ensure that migrant workers can actually benefit from it, experts and businessmen observe.

Manpower exports from Bangladesh to Malaysia had been suspended since 2018 despite the country being one of the most popular destinations for Bangladeshi migrant workers.

In 2016, the Malaysian government announced that 1.5 million workers would be imported from Bangladesh every year. However, only 10 agencies had the privilege of sending the workers due to recruiting syndicates.

The maximum cost for each migrant worker was fixed at Tk35,000, but the syndicate took Tk300,000-400,000 per person.

Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of Baira, said: “Apart from syndicates, interference of legal agencies must be controlled to keep the market sustainable.”

Currently, 200,000-300,000 undocumented Bangladeshis are living in Malaysia.

Labour exports from Bangladesh to Malaysia began in 1984. Until 2009, all agencies had the opportunity to export workers to Malaysia according to their qualifications, without hindrance.

BMET data shows that Bangladesh exported a total of 1.06 million skilled and unskilled workers to Malaysia from 1976-2019.

According to BMET, Bangladesh exported a total of 485,893 workers to different countries in the January-November period of this year, 217,669 in 2020, 700,159 in 2019, 734,181 in 2018, 1,008,528 in 2017, and 757,731 workers in 2016.

Worker-friendly deal

According to officials, the latest MoU offers an opportunity to establish an ideal structure for the recruitment, employment, and repatriation of workers in order to ensure their rights and dignity.

The recruitment agency will bear all the costs of the Bangladeshi workers, including the recruitment process, accommodation, employment, and sending the workers to Malaysia.

Employers can hire Malaysian recruiting agents at their own cost.

Besides, the employers will have to bear the immigration fees, visa fees, medical expenses, insurance expenses and quarantine expenses of the workers.

“The terms and conditions set for the workers are comfortable. The workers will benefit as long as syndicates do not intervene in the process,” said Shariful Hasan, head of migration at Brac.

Can the syndicates be controlled?  

Experts and businessmen fear that recruiting syndicates will continue to take advantage of the migrant workers, negating the benefits of the new MoU.

Shariful Hasan told Dhaka Tribune: “It is unfortunate that the authorities concerned have always failed to control the syndicates. The workers will not get the benefit of their labour if syndicates become active in the process.”

The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), and Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) have assured that the instability and dissatisfaction caused by syndicates in the Malaysian labour market prior to 2018 will not resurface.

They added that they wanted manpower export to Malaysia to be free of any syndicates, with equal opportunities for all recruiting agencies.

On the other hand, leaders of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) have alleged that some top government officials and 25 recruiting agencies are trying to capture the entire market for manpower exports to Malaysia, depriving more than 1,000 other recruiting agencies of a level playing field.

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