After a hiatus of over three years, Malaysia has officially reopened its labour market to Bangladeshi workers for five years until December 2026.
To meet the growing demand of workers following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Southeast Asian country has started hiring workers from potential countries, and as part of the move, the Malaysian cabinet on 10 December decided to resume the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers.
Expatriates' Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed and Malaysian Minister for Human Resources, Seri Saravanan Murugan, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard at 11am Sunday in Malaysia.
Under the new deal, Malaysian employers will bear all costs of Bangladeshi workers, including immigration fee, visa fee, health examination cost, insurance cost, Covid-19 test cost and quarantine related cost, read a press release from the expatriate welfare ministry.
Besides, employers can hire Malaysian recruiting agents at their own expense and they will be responsible for ensuring quality accommodation, medical care, and the welfare of workers, it added.
Earlier on Sunday, a four-member team led by minister Imran reached Kuala Lumpur to sign the deal.
After signing the deal, Malaysian minister Saravanan, in a statement said, "The inking of the MoU is expected to meet the urgent need for foreign workers."
He also said the MoU outlined the responsibilities of both countries, including those related to employers from Malaysia and workers from Bangladesh, as well as the duties of private employment agencies in both countries, reports Bernama, the national news agency of Malaysia.
"The implementation of the MoU would be regulated by a Joint Working Group (JWG) with members from both countries," added the minister.
The new deal has opened the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in all sectors including plantations, agriculture, manufacturing, services, mining, construction, and household services.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, Bangladesh's High Commissioner to Malaysia, Md Golam Sarwar, Director General of Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) Md Shahidul Alam, and Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of Human Resources of Malaysia, Datu Muhammad Khair Ajman bin Mohammed Anwar, were also present at the signing ceremony.
According to the MoU, the employers will select Bangladeshi agents in accordance with the rules of the Malaysian government from the list of legitimate recruitment agencies sent by Bangladesh. The MoU further states that the Malaysian government will ensure transparency and fairness in this regard.
The recruitment process of new workers is expected to begin soon after the necessary formalities are completed.
According to the ministry press statement, both countries acknowledged on the occasion that Bangladeshi workers are contributing to the economic development of Malaysia as well as to the development of Bangladesh.
The agreement has further protected the rights and dignity of workers in accordance with the laws, rules, regulations, national policies and guidelines of both countries, it added.
Abul Bashar, former president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) told TBS, "Under the new MoU, migration costs would not cross the range between Tk80,000 to Tk1.20 lakh. If employers bear air tickets, the cost would further decrease. The migration cost used to be around Tk4-4.5 lakh."
He also said that before closing the market, around 10-15 thousand workers went to Malaysia each month.
"Now, some 20-30 thousand workers will migrate to Malaysia in the coming months as employers there need a large number of foreign workers," he said.
Malaysia is home to around eight lakh Bangladeshis, according to an unofficial estimate.
The country suspended hiring Bangladeshi workers in September 2018 over allegations of malpractice in the recruitment process and high recruitment costs.
Mohammad Rasheduzzaman, assistant personal secretary to the expat minister, told TBS, "There is no decision yet on how many recruiting agencies will send workers."
Commenting on recruiting agency syndicates, the Expat minister on Friday said, "I am not in favour of any syndicate to send workers to Malaysia. We want to send workers in a process where all recruiting agencies can participate, not some particular agencies."
In line with the decision of the Malaysian cabinet meeting on 10 December, the Malaysian minister said on Sunday that the standard operating procedures (SOP) for the entry of foreign workers had been fine-tuned and improved.
He said the SOP covered four phases, namely pre-release, upon arrival, after arrival (quarantine) and post-quarantine.