Ninety-nine percent of potential migrants would choose to stay in Bangladesh if there were better job opportunities, according to a report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in coordination with the government.
Potential migrants were asked what would need to change in their home country to convince them to stay. A total of 99 percent of them said they would remain in Bangladesh if there were better jobs.
"I cannot lead a decent life with the money I earn in this country. Many people are doing better by going abroad and that is why I have also decided to go there," one of the respondents said.
Respondents also stated that they would stay if there were improvements to the rule of law (38 percent), a better security situation (36 percent) and more accessible health services (29 percent).
Almost half of the respondents indicated that they would remain in the country if they were supported to further their studies.
Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, secretary to the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, said labour migration is immensely important for the economic and social development of Bangladesh.
"For a better understanding of this sector, we need to prepare a database of people going abroad for jobs with details–such as their socio-economic background–and to formulate better-informed migration scenarios for the future," he said.
"This report provides a detailed understanding of the factors that shape international labour migration from Bangladesh, and it will help us formulate better policies and practices," he added.
Giorgi Gigauri, chief of mission of IOM in Bangladesh, said, "This is the first time we have completed a large-scale, nationwide survey of potential migrants."
"We anticipate that the findings from the report will initiate discussions on how to address the socioeconomic drivers of migration from Bangladesh and support high-level dialogues–on the importance of investing in education and skills development of potential migrant workers. When we invest in migrant workers, we invest in their communities," he added.
Titled "Bangladesh: Survey on Drivers of Migration and Migrants' Profile," the report was launched at a virtual meeting on Wednesday. It was developed through a collaborative project on Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy, and Displacement Tracking Matrix funded by the European Union.
A range of stakeholders–from the government, United Nations agencies, local NGOs, international NGOs, and academic organisations–from Bangladesh and from the region attended the programme launch.
The top drivers of migration from Bangladesh include: an absence of job opportunities particularly in the formal sector, insufficient income, financial problems, a lack of social services, and limited social protection systems, the report read.
In November and December last year, a total of 11,415 potential migrants, who intended to migrate by June this year, were interviewed. Potential migrants were categorised as regular or irregular, based on whether they had registered their intention to move with the help of the government or not.
This is the first report of its kind to cover all 64 districts in the country. Previous studies on the drivers of migration in Bangladesh have been targeted as well as limited in scope and scale.
The report presents pre-Covid-19 dynamics, but a comprehensive analysis of drivers of migration and profiles of potential migrants provides a baseline, which can be used to understand migration in the wake of the pandemic as well.
Most respondents were male (89 percent) and the average age was 27, with a total of 64 percent aged in their twenties. Approximately half of the respondents were married.
Most respondents were of working age and had attained some level of education. In terms of the highest education level they had attained, 41 percent had finished middle school, 27 percent completed secondary education, 26 percent completed primary education, and three percent had not enrolled in education.
Poor quality employment remains a challenge in Bangladesh and 40 percent of potential migrants were unemployed before deciding to migrate, and 90 percent reported no personal income or insufficient income.
Interestingly, the report found that the profiles of regular and irregular potential migrants are very similar. In Bangladesh, the general perception of irregular migrants is that they are young, less educated and less likely to be employed.
However, the report found that regular and irregular potential migrants are the same age and have similar levels of education.
The report also debunked the widely-held perception that migrants leave countries in the Global South to travel to countries in the Global North. As can be seen in the data, this is not the case in Bangladesh. Instead, migration is predominately South-South, with most migrants going to countries in the Middle East or elsewhere in Asia.
Only 1.4 percent expressed interest in migrating to Europe and the Americas. Most respondents reported that they would travel to the Middle East where Saudi Arabia was the most popular country of destination.
The report shows that 85 percent of potential migrants paid migration facilitators to support their relocation. Regular and irregular potential migrants paid very similar amounts to migration facilitators and the average amount paid by regular potential migrants was Tk243,651, while irregular potential migrants on average paid Tk229,488.
The largest amount paid to a migration facilitator was Tk16 lakh.
Bangladesh is the sixth largest origin country for international migrants in the world, with 7.8 million Bangladeshi migrants living abroad as of 2019. In Bangladesh, over 2.2 million young adults join the labour force every year but the domestic labour market is unable to absorb all these jobseekers.