Bangladesh ranks 6th among migrant origin countries. But the country is in the 9th position among the top 10 remittance-receiving nations. We are sending more workers abroad, but earning less than our major competitors like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines due to our larger unskilled workforce.
According to the data of International Organization for Migration, 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 twice of what a Bangladeshi worker sends.
The main reason is that we are failing to meet the global demand for skilled workforce abroad; thus, our workers are forced to get lower salaries than our competitors' skilled workers.
Though we have more recruiting agencies and are exporting more workforce overseas but because of the lack of our worker's skill, we do not have a strong bargaining position.
Language is an essential skill for migrant workers. For example, when workers from South India or the Philippines go abroad for a job, they are getting jobs in shopping malls because they are fluent in English that we lag behind. Despite completing graduation and even post-graduation in Bangladesh, our jobseekers cannot write or speak English fluently. On the other hand, a man or woman from India and the Philippines can fluently speak English even after completing their primary level schools. In that case, it is obvious that the employers will pay more salary to those who have these communication skills.
I am not saying that our workers are getting abysmal salaries. Instead, I would say our workers are getting wages based on the skills they have.
We cannot improve these skills overnight. We have a national policy to develop workers skills. The ruling government is trying to strengthen the existing policy. A total of 24 ministries are providing training. Before, the ministries used to provide training on varied courses, but in a scattered manner, which was time-consuming and wasn't fruitful enough as there was no coordination on the training subjects in the past.
To develop our workers' skills efficiently, the government has established the National Skills Development Authority, run directly under the Prime Minister's Office. The agency is working as an umbrella for smooth coordination, monitoring and international certification.
We are providing the training but our capacity is limited. That is because we do not have enough training institutions. Currently, we have only 71 technical training centres and six marine technology institutes across the country.
On average, we send seven lakh workforce annually. Last year, there was a target of sending 10 lakh workforce abroad, but we could not meet the target due to the coronavirus outbreak.
But in our government training centres, we can provide training to at best 1 lakh job-seekers. The private training intuitions are giving training to two lakh more job-seekers. As a result, most of the job-seekers who are going abroad in search of a job are unskilled. The salary of these unskilled workforces is low, and they are deprived of adequate facilities. This is what is happening now.
What we are doing now is expanding the capacity for the training facility. A total of 40 more technical training centres have been built. By December this year, we will start these 40 technical training centres. Moreover, we are also preparing a development project proposal to establish 100 more technical training centres in 100 Upazila across the country. The government has a plan to develop one technical training centre in every upazila of the country. And then hopefully we will get skilled human resources.
Before going abroad for jobs, many people show a tendency not to take training. We have already made it mandatory to take training before going abroad. Currently, we are providing a three-day mandatory orientation training before their departures.
When a man goes abroad for a job and fails to do the job well, it ultimately tarnishes our country's image and damages our market in that country. So, training is a must for every job-seeker. When a well-trained job seeker goes abroad, he will earn more, which will ultimately increase our remittance.
Shamsul Alam is the Director General of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).