- UAE announces plans to attract foreign skilled workers
- New green visa for skilled workers will have more flexibility
- Around 12 lakh Bangladeshis currently work in UAE
An opportunity is now on offer for Bangladesh to capitalise on the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) new economic initiative to attract skilled foreign workers, but all depends on how well the migrant origin country can ready its manpower for exports to the destination.
Experts and stakeholders say Bangladesh, one of the top migrant origin countries, will miss out on the opportunity unless it goes for producing skilled manpower.
The UAE is set to roll out green visas and expand eligibility for golden visas as it has recently unveiled a massive plan to ease stringent residency rules for expatriates to boost the country's competitiveness.
Around 12 lakh Bangladeshi expatriate workers are currently employed in the UAE, the second largest destination for Bangladeshi workers. Most of them are unskilled and do low-profile jobs in construction and service sectors, according to an unofficial estimate.
Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general at Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said, "Our most expat workers in the UAE are now getting low salaries ranging between 800 and 1200 dirhams as they are engaged in manual work."
"If we can send skilled workers to the Gulf state in line with its new economic vision, remittance inflows will boost," he also said.
Bangladesh's embassy in the UAE should now identify the sectors that will need workers in the coming years. Manpower will have to be trained up as per demand, he added.
The UAE will create two new visa categories – one for freelancers and one for entrepreneurs and skilled workers – to attract and retain foreigners with desirable skills, according to UAE officials, reported Reuters.
Foreigners in the UAE usually have renewable visas valid for only a few years tied to employment.
The new "green visa" for skilled workers will have more flexibility for sponsoring family members and will allow more time to find a new job after one employment ends, officials added.
Last year, the UAE extended to more categories a "golden" visa system, which grants 10-year residency, a move that Dubai said could boost economic growth in the emirate by up to 1%.
Although the labour market in the UAE has remained closed since 2012, workers can find employment in the country after going there with a visit visa.
Shamim said, "There is an opportunity for workers from some countries to go to the UAE for three months with a visit visa. They can then convert that into a working visa and stay for a certain period according to the contract with an employer company."
At least 47% of Bangladeshi migrant workers are considered unskilled, and these expats make far less money than the skilled ones, making Bangladesh's per-worker remittance one of the lowest, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training.
The average monthly remittance sent by a Bangladeshi expat is $203.33 (Tk17,236), while it is $564.1 for a Filipino worker, which is more than double compared to a Bangladeshi, IOM data says.
Moreover, the monthly average income of a Pakistani expat is $275.74 and $395.71 for an Indian and $532.71 Chinese citizen.
Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit's (RMMRU) Founding Chair Dr Tasneem Siddiqui said, "Currently, we do not have the production of sufficient skilled workers. So, we would not be able to cash in on the new scope in the UAE until we create a new flow."
"As our technical education system is separate from general education, only a handful of students ever get technical training. A major portion of our migrant workers are untrained and unskilled, and employers from destination countries are taking advantage of these people."
Bangladesh has to offer a choice of technical training to all students till the SSC level and make this education compulsory, she added.
In the last fiscal year, Bangladeshi workers in the UAE remitted $2,439 million, which was the third highest amount after Saudi Arabia and the United States.