Malaysia has recently put a freeze on manpower intake on one hand and on the other, it has started a massive crackdown on the undocumented workers who are staying in the country illegally. Both the steps have badly affected manpower export of Bangladesh and undocumented Bangladeshi labourers staying in that country.
However, according to a report, Malaysia is expected to start fresh recruitment from Bangladesh shortly as the recent government-to-government plus (G2G plus) deal has not been otherwise affected by the decision of suspension of foreign workers recruitment by Malaysia. In a dramatic move, the Southeast Asian nation last week suspended recruitment of foreign workers from all countries, including Bangladesh.
Meantime, the Malaysian government, according to reports, is unlikely to send back the overseas workers who became undocumented after they had gone to the Southeast Asian country in search of jobs. Under the ongoing rehiring programme that started on February 15, the undocumented workers, who want to stay there, will be regularised by paying charges RYM 2,500 for service and construction and manufacturing sectors and RYM 1,500 for agriculture sector. The workers, who are not involved with serious criminal activities ,are supposed to be benefited from the rehiring programme.
Nearly 60,000 foreign workers were detained by the Malaysian police in 2015. However, the authorities say it's a regular practice because of various reasons including reducing the number of irregular workers in the country. The recent drive has caused panic among the Bangladeshi workers who are staying there irregularly. Due to malpractices by a section of employers and middlemen, a good number of Bangladeshis became irregular.
However, it is not clear whether the recent freeze on manpower intake will affect Bangladesh or not. No confirmation of the credibility of the news has yet been received. Recently, a Malaysian minister, while defending a halt in hiring foreign workers including Bangladeshis by his country, said recruitment of workers from all source countries would remain suspended until it ascertains the actual manpower needs of local industries.
Many wonder as to what had prompted the Malaysian government to go for a sudden freeze on manpower intake. According to reports, Bangladeshi workers' agitation and hunger strike at the Bangladesh High Commission premises protesting poor working conditions and a few thousand of them being stranded at the airport without any Malaysian company receiving them might be a reason for creating a disconcerting situation for all concerned.
Some say that the report of the planned intake of 1.5 million Bangladeshi labourers sparked negative responses from some Malaysians, including a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who claimed that entry of such a large number of foreign workers would lead to rape, terrorism and the spread of diseases.
Malaysia reopened its door for overseas workers in 2012 under G2G arrangement. But the outflow of Bangladeshi workers remained conspicuously low. So, both the countries initiated G2G plus arrangement to incorporate the provision of hiring workers through the private sector as well. About 10,000 Bangladeshi workers have so far been sent to Malaysia under the G-to-G arrangement. Nearly 600,000 Bangladeshis are now working in Malaysia.
The abrupt halt in recruitment of foreign workers by Malaysia brought to light once again the necessity of playing responsible role by the relevant authorities in the government and the media. It should be realised the in the prevailing competitive market, it is near impossible to export such a huge number of workers to any country.
However, Malaysian human resources minister made two things clear. One, 1.5 million Bangladeshis were registered with a Bangladeshi agency for overseas employment. Their aim was to avail employment in any of 139 countries, including Malaysia. Two, the number of workers to be taken from Bangladesh will depend on the demand of their businessmen.
It was also pointed out by the Malaysian minister that the country's most businessmen were more interested in recruiting Indonesian and Nepali workers than Bangladeshis. This gives an impression that things are not that easy for the local workforce.
Moreover, as analysts say, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and an agreement are two different things. Malaysia has such MoUs with six other countries, with no mention of any specific number of workers to be taken. Yet the media reported that Malaysia would be taking 1.5 million people from Bangladesh. The very next day of its announcement, the news appeared that the Malaysian federal government had put a ban on import of overseas workers.
The G2G system kept the private recruiters out of the scene following allegations of various irregularities. But there has been no progress in formally involving the private recruiters again side by side with the official efforts. The G2G mechanism became a failure over the last three years when hardly 10,000 workers could be sent under it to Malaysia.
Due to the failure of the G2G system, the authorities in Bangladesh allowed private recruiters to send educated professionals to Malaysia. In June 2015, the two sides decided to sign a G2G plus deal to facilitate recruitment of 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers by private recruiters in three years. Despite several follow-up meetings there has been no progress on the issue since then.
Recruitment of Bangladeshi workers by Malaysia remains virtually stalled. The people are in the dark about the real picture relating to the stalled recruitments by Malaysia. In the negotiations over the issue, our officials performed poorly in the past due to lack of coordination between the ministries of expatriates' welfare and overseas employment and foreign affairs.
The contribution of Bangladeshi workers to Malaysian economy is a well-recognised fact. The government-to-government relations are in an excellent state; but it is the manpower agents and their middlemen on both sides that have made a mess of the affair.
However, there are reasons to believe that the confusion over exporting manpower to Malaysia would clear up soon. This is possible through flurries of diplomatic activities taking place between the two countries. The friendly relations with Malaysia will continue to grow with both sides coming to a durable solution of the problem.