Female migrant workers increased though decline in male counterparts

For a decade, remittance income drove Bangladesh’s economy, building up a healthy foreign exchange reserve. Some 2.5 million Bangladeshis work overseas and men heavily dominate the country’s migrant workforce. Recently, the number of Bangladeshi women

That number surged since 2012, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET). Some 57,000 women left to work in other countries in 2013, marking a 7% increase from the previous year, the bureau reports. According to its latest figures, some 275,000 Bangladeshi women (11% of the nation’s migrant workforce) now officially work abroad, mostly in domestic service jobs.

rmgMeanwhile, the male migrant workforce has shrunk, dropping from 608,000 workers abroad in 2012 to 409,000 in 2013.

In general, Bangladesh’s female migrant workers contribute larger remittances to the national economy, said Sumayia Islam, director of the Bangladesh Female Migrant Workers Association.

“Unlike male workers, female migrants tend to save more and remit a substantial part of their income back home,” she told Khabar.

Safeguards against exploitation

Bangladesh is also increasing efforts to protect women working abroad from exploitation.

In the past, many female migrant workers– especially those unregistered and hence unaccounted for– fell prey to unscrupulous recruiters who subjected them to harassment and in many cases, prostitution.

The government has registered foreign employment seekers for years, but in 2013, made it mandatory for women to help better protect them against potential abuse abroad.

Female migrant workers must also now take a three-week training course before leaving the country, said BMET Director General Begum Shamsun Nahar.

“Because of the registration process we’re able to know which organisation is employing them, where are they going and how much they are paid,” she told Khabar South Asia. “We’ve all the required information stored in our system.”

And to help female jobseekers, the bureau and UN Women jointly set up a women’s information centre.

Such safeguards encourage victims of past exploitation like Kamala Khatun, 37. A few years ago, she and nine other women returned home from Dubai, where she had worked as a maid.

“I realised soon after I arrived there that I was being paid much less than what I was promised, and was subjected to inhuman conditions with long hours and no leave,” the Valuka, Mymensingh resident told Khabar.

Now, because of the new government safeguards that reduce risk of exploitation, Khatum plans to travel abroad again for work.

– Shahriar Sharif for Khabar South Asia in Dhaka