Malaysia to recruit 500,000 Bangladeshi workers over 5 years

Ahammad Foyez
Malaysia to recruit 500,000 Bangladeshi workers over 5 years A worker from Bangladesh prepares food in his cabin at a quarter in Kuala Lumpur, June 19, 2011.

Malaysia has agreed to hire 500,000 Bangladeshi workers over the next five years, with the first batch of documented workers from Bangladesh since 2018 due to leave later this month, a minister in Dhaka said Thursday.

Four years ago, similar efforts were suspended over allegations of malpractice in the recruitment process for Bangladeshi migrants, many of whom were hired for low wages in menial but strenuous jobs on plantations, construction sites and other sectors of Malaysia’s economy.

This time around, the Malaysian government will select the recruiting agency from Bangladesh, which will be involved in the process, said Imran Ahmed, Bangladesh’s minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.

“Today we reached a consensus over the issue. Very soon, definitely within the month of June, we will send our people to Malaysia,” he told a press conference in Dhaka following a meeting here with M. Saravanan, the Malaysian human resources minister.

“Malaysia will hire a total of 500,000 workers from Bangladesh in five years. We are hopeful about sending 200,000 workers in the first year,” Ahmed said.

Late last year, Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh to recruit workers to overcome a nationwide labor shortage. On Dec. 10, the Malaysian cabinet decided to reopen the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in several sectors including plantations, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, construction and domestic service, among others.

In 2018, Malaysia had suspended the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers over allegations that a syndicate was using it as a human trafficking scheme to exploit Bangladeshi laborers, leading to high fees incurred by immigrant workers to get jobs.

Ahmed said Thursday that Bangladesh had given Malaysia a list of 1,520 registered recruitment agencies for Malaysia to select from, Ahmed said.

“[T]his is the right of the Malaysian government, they will hire people through the recruiting agencies as they want,” Ahmed said.

Additionally, Bangladesh will provide a list of workers to Malaysia and the latter will select people from the list under the conditions of the agreement signed between the two countries in December, Ahmed said. Under the agreement, workers will earn a minimum wage of 1,500 ringgit (U.S. $341.61) a month.

The Bangladeshi minister said that migration costs for the workers would also be reduced compared with the earlier $1,795.

“The Malaysian minister told us that his government is working towards zero-cost migration in the future,” he said, explaining that workers will not need to bear any of the costs to go to Malaysia in the future as their employers and the Malaysian government would do so.

For his part, Saravanan said that he and Ahmed discussed issues to do with the welfare of the Bangladeshi workers.

“Both Malaysia and Bangladesh are committed to protecting the interests of the workers, based on international standards,” Saravanan said on Facebook after the meeting.

Meanwhile, as Ahmed and Saravanan were meeting, some private recruitment agencies held a press conference about an alleged move by Malaysia to select a group of 25 recruiters.

Muhammad Faruk, the president of an organization called the Joint Coordination Front of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, said the group was akin to a syndicate and would put the recruitment initiative in danger like it did in 2018.

He said all registered recruiting agencies must be allowed to participate in Malaysia’s labor hiring program.     

According to the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower and Employment and Training, Malaysia informed Bangladesh in January that it had selected 25 recruiters through which to hire workers, and the issue became contentious between the two countries.

When asked about it after his meeting with Ahmed, Malaysia’s Saravanan merely said, “Our cabinet will take the decision.” Officials at Ahmed’s office were not immediately available for comment.

“We informed Bangladesh about the welfare and wellbeing of workers,” he said. 

Mohammad Ullah, 46, who used to work in Malaysia and wants to return there, said the restart of recruitment was exciting news.

“Not only I, but many of my relatives and neighbors are also waiting for the reopening of the market,” he told BenarNews.

He said, though, that he was confused about the recruitment agencies and processes.

“I need to know more details.”


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