Technology boosts Bangladesh migrant job search
The Bangladeshi government is looking to simplify the process for citizens who want to work overseas.
Any worker looking to work in a foreign country can now put his or her personal information on a government website, including a curriculum vitae, national ID number, qualifications and passport number.
The government says foreign employers can view this directly, cutting out middlemen, who are sometimes accused of malpractice.
It hopes that by digitising and modernising the recruitment process it can send more workers abroad in the coming years.
Remittances from Bangladeshis living aboard are a big foreign currency earner for the country, second only to the textile business.
Prospective migrant workers can use any internet cafes or government-run information service centres across the country for this online registration. Those who do not have computer literacy will get help to key in their details.
"Now people from rural areas don't have to come to Dhaka to register for overseas jobs. It can be done from district headquarters and even from our mobile phones. We don't require middlemen any more," said Jamaluddin Jamshed, a migrant worker.
"We can also name a nominee in this online registration process. If anything happens to us while working abroad, the compensation will automatically go to our family members."
An increasing number of young Bangladeshis are looking to work abroad because of limited opportunities within the country. And registering their details with the government is the first step towards achieving that goal.
Until recently, migrant workers depended on middlemen to manually register them - but the service cost them hundreds of dollars.
The new online registration will cost only US$1.30 (80p) for the workers. They can pay this fee by sending a text message from their mobile phone.
About seven million Bangladeshis work overseas and the government also plans to use the registration system as a new database.
"We are trying to develop connectivity with our missions abroad, with the employers and with the country of destination," Khurshid Alam Chowdhury, director general, Bureau of Manpower said.
"A foreign employer will have the scope to choose workers from a list in our database.
"They can see the workers' professional skills and qualification on the site. So, right from his country the employer can source a group of workers or a single worker using our database."
Overseas remittances reached a record $11bn (£6.8bn) last year, making migrant labourers one of the backbones of the Bangladeshi economy.
Millions of Bangladeshis depend on money sent by relatives working overseas, mainly in the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe.
The money has also helped to lift millions of people out of poverty in the past 20 years. But the global economic crisis and the political turmoil in the Arab world has caused a sharp drop in the number of workers going abroad.
Now, the government is keen to find new markets for its migrant workers and also try to secure better contracts for them.
"We are trying to simplify the whole process. There are many stakeholders here, like middlemen, recruiting agencies and foreign companies. So, we want to send our workers on a government-to-government arrangement so that their migration cost is reduced," said Mr Chowdhury.
He pointed out that female workers going to work in Jordan used to spend up to $1,500 dollars, whereas due to government-to-government contracts the migration cost has now come down to just $120.
The high migration cost is cited as one of the reasons for many migrant labourers from developing countries overstaying in a country beyond their contract period or becoming illegal workers. Most of them take loans to pay their initial migration cost.
The government is already issuing a smart card to workers going abroad which contains all the details of the person in a chip with 32kB memory. This will also help to track the workers in a foreign country.
"Apart from his name, passport number and photo, this card will also have details of his or her employer, designation and salary," said Muhammad Nurul Islam, director, training, Bureau of Manpower.
"So, if the worker faces any problem in a foreign country he or she can go to the nearest Bangladeshi embassy with this card.
"Our computers will retrieve information about the workers in a few seconds and we can seek remedy.
"In extreme cases, the worker can also easily return home."