At a time when remittance inflows marked a continuous fall, the strong rebound of Bangladesh's labour exports in recent months signals a return of good times on the back of oil-rich Gulf countries' fast recovery buoyed by global oil price hike.
Foreign jobs for Bangladeshis crossed the 65,000 mark in October, up by 55% month-on-month - the highest single month labour migration since the resumption of the overseas job markets in August last year following the withdrawal of Covid restrictions, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
The labour migration also registered a 76% year-on-year rise in October this year.
In pre-pandemic times, around 60,000 Bangladeshi expatriates on average would obtain jobs in different countries, mostly in the Middle East, every month. But Covid-19 had brought the number down drastically last year and there was no migration during April-June that year.
The six oil-exporting economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council are expected to take a big leap with the consistent increase in oil prices.
That is why Bangladesh has again been witnessing a rising trend of overseas employment, mainly in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Singapore.
For example, Saudi Arabia, the top destination for Bangladeshi migrants, generated nearly three lakh jobs that accounted for 78% of all overseas jobs between January and October this year. The oil-rich country recruited 51,472 Bangladeshis in October, up from 44,985 in June. The kingdom recruited 11,282 Bangladeshis in July, 14,919 in August and 31,238 in September.
In November, the number of Bangladeshis, particularly for cleaning and construction jobs, flying to Saudi Arabia is expected to stand at 40,000-50,000.
Besides, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Italy and the United Kingdom are also offering a small number of job opportunities for Bangladeshis, available data show.
Shahadat Hossain, proprietor, 4-Site International, a recruiting agency, told The Business Standard, "We have now a demand of around 250 cleaners from Saudi Arabia with monthly salaries ranging between Tk20,000-Tk27000."
They are getting a poor response from aspirant migrants although it costs Tk1.8 lakh- Tk2.5 lakh per migration, he added.
Unskilled people are more interested in going to Malaysia than the Middle East now for a better work atmosphere and salaries, but the Malaysian labour market has remained closed since 2018 and it is expected to reopen within next year.
Shahdat said the UAE, the second largest Bangladeshi migrants' destination, has also reopened their labour market but on a very 'limited scale'.
Currently, there is a demand of around 200 construction workers and security guards in the UAE.
Recruiters said migrant workers can also find employment after going to the UAE on visit visas.
"There is an opportunity for workers from some countries to go to the UAE for three months on visit visas. They can then convert those into work visas and stay there for a certain period according to the job contracts," said Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
Besides, there are also some job demands from some European countries, such as Rumania, Poland, and Cyprus.
Even though Bangladesh witnessed an unprecedented boom in remittance inflow amid the Covid-19 pandemic, hitting the single-month record of $2.6 billion in July last year, the cash inflow has now been tapering off.
The total amount remitted by Bangladeshi expatriates in the July-October period of the current fiscal year was $7.05 billion, which is a 20% drop year-on-year, according to data released by the Bangladesh Bank on November 1.
The Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit projected last December that the year-on-year migration rate had declined by around 71% due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
More than seven lakh newly recruited Bangladeshis went abroad in 2019, but only 2.17 lakh workers migrated abroad last year, as revealed by data from BMET. Around five lakh migrants returned home amid the pandemic, and the overseas employment rate was significantly lower last year.
Dr Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said, "The remittances that we are now receiving are coming from the 'stock migrants'. Workers who are migrating now will contribute gradually to the remittance inflows in coming years."
Bangladesh may witness a negative growth in remittance in the near future like in the last few months, he also.
"I think it will be quite impossible to get more than $24 billion in remittance in the current fiscal year similar to the last fiscal, but we may get $20-21 billion, which will be slightly higher than the pre-pandemic trend," he added.