Lack of social integration combined with social stigma act as barriers to the women getting jobs
As many as 60% of female migrants returning from overseas remain unemployed, says a recent study.
The findings of the study, “Social and Economic Reintegration of Returnee Female Migrant Workers: Success and Sorrows”, were shared during a media call at the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) on Monday morning.
The study was carried out from July to December 2020 on 323 returnee migrants from Faridpur, Jessore and Chittagong among all age groups starting from 18 to 65.
The study found that around 22.6% of the female migrants had returned from their workplaces less than one year after joining.
Moreover, 81.3% of migrants in the age group of 26-49 years are now unemployed.
BILS Deputy Director Md Monirul Islam, one of the researchers in the study, says that nearly 70% of the respondents do not have formal education that can enable them to find suitable work in the country.
“However, some of them are very young and have their whole life ahead. That is why social integration is so important to help them rebuild their lives here,” he said.
Among the respondents of the study, 52% were victims of forced labour and 38% were abused in the host country, says the study. Meanwhile, around 33% of them responded that they were in worse condition than before leaving the country.
According to the study, on average each migrant runs up a debt of Tk76,736 while going abroad, but there is no database of returnee migrants.
BILS Executive Member Sakil Akhtar Chowdhury says that the state has a responsibility to help these returnee migrants who are in such vulnerable conditions.
“A woman goes through lots of hardship, starting from taking the decision to leave the country, and then fighting in an unknown land to earn her wages,” he said.
He added that society was ready to pounce on the women who are already facing unemployment upon return.
According to the research, social attitudes towards these women act as a great barrier for them as they try to move forward in life.
They are often boycotted socially, abandoned by their husbands, or divorced and considered not suitable for good marriages.
One out of every three women in the survey stated that they were perceived as “characterless women” by people around them.
The speakers present at the press conference praised the presence of social integration in the laws related to migrants, including the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013, Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Policy 2016 and Wage Earners’ Welfare Board Act 2018.
However, 73% of the respondents had never even heard of “social integration” let alone receive any support even during the Covid pandemic.
“Social reintegration is a new concept and our community is still not prepared to accept it,” says BILS Deputy Director Monirul Islam.
He added that the 13 ministries and departments which were in charge of managing the welfare of the returnee migrants had poor to non-existent coordination.
“A steering committee under the prime minister is supposed to look after the management but that has remained ineffective till date,” he added.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), around 12 million people are currently employed abroad. Among them, nearly 155,000 are women.
Experts say that although the remittance was not affected by the pandemic and neither was their contribution to the country’s GDP, the downward trend of employment is worrying for the economy of the country in the future.