Economic Migration and Human Rights in Bangladesh


International migration has an effective contribution to economic development in Bangladesh. But sometimes they have faced inhuman behavior, which is against labor law. Bangladesh government has few institutions, who are dealing with the migration process including labor rights. There is some theoretical explanation as to why so many people going out. In this article, I’ll describe those theoretical approaches and the Bangladesh government institution’s working process also the human condition of international migrant people of Bangladesh. This article examines those issues through some secondary data and a few research papers. But this paper is mainly based on personal argument. And that data will help to establish those arguments.



Humanity has been on the run since the early beginning. Some people are moving in search of Jobs or economic opportunities, to join the family or to study. Others flee to avoid war, persecution, terrorism, climate disasters, or human rights abuses. People migrant from one place to another place for several causes. The cause might be economic, political, individual, or other. Migration has two forms. Internal & International. Internal migration happened in the state. And international migration has happened, when people go from one state to another state. International migration has become a significant global phenomenon.
Globalization makes it easy to go from one country to another country. Within the last decade, the number of people crossing borders has risen by around six million a year. This rate is higher than the growth rate of the population of the world. This scenario told us, how much the number of international migrants is every year. This international migration was caused when someone goes to other countries for economic purposes, better livelihood, study, traveling, or obligated to leave his own country. But the economic purpose is the most common of these. Almost 95% of people go from one country to another country for economic purposes. And the labor market is the primary influence of foreign Migration. Every year lots of people go abroad from Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, 92% of people go abroad for economic causes. Most of them are labor & a large amount of labor are going in the Middle East and also some European countries. Many of them go through the legal process and many go through the illegal process. Sometimes they sacrificed their lives to go abroad illegally. Which also hurts their family. Because it turns out that the man is the only earner to whom the family has sent out to earn money by selling family resources.

At the work level, a few categories are there. Professional, skilled, semiskilled, unskilled worker. In Bangladesh, most of the labor is unskilled workers. This unskilled worker faced many challenges in their working sector. And lacking their skill, sometimes they working so hard to earn money to do various jobs. People from South Asia are more likely to go to the Middle East and most of them are unskilled labor. And their living condition, working condition is so unhealthy. This difficult environment is so costly for their health. After working in such an environment for a long time, they get infected with a big disease. However, those labor migrant people give a big amount of money to their families. Their family can able to improve their living condition with this money. This money plays a significant role in remittance in Bangladesh.

In the recent decade, Bangladesh is one of the top listed countries, which receive a huge number of remittances from another country. Remittance flow and the Ready-made garments (RMG) sector helped Bangladesh to increase its GDP in the recent decade. These two sectors help Bangladesh to get economic stability.



This article is mainly based on a qualitative strategy. And it also relies on some research papers, secondary data, articles, and also some governmental data.


Theoretical framework

In migration theory, two factors are there. Push factor and Pull factor. In the Push factor, people are going from one place to another place unwillingly. It’s happened when one country attacks another country and people are obligated to leave the place. This obligation also might be coming from a natural disaster or due to inflation of the domestic economy. On the other hand, the push factor is the opposite of the pull factor. In this factor, people willingly went to another place or country. Because of the better job facility, better environment, better livelihood, better education, etc. In the context of Bangladesh, the Push factor worked basically. Because every year the unemployment rate is getting higher in this country. So people labor migrant people are obligated to go to another country for work because of a lack of job opportunities and also earn more money. From an economic perspective, there are three types of migration theory at the economic level. The first one is the Neo-Classical theory (macro-level). According to the labor market, geographical differences between labor supply and labor demand were made a significant effect in both countries (labor goes from that country and which country they go to). It exists in the International and Internal sectors. International migration was caused by the level of the wage difference between countries and the labor market. It happened between capital-poor/ labor-force-rich, capital-rich/labor-force-poor states. And it happened because of the labor gap between the two countries. 



At the micro-level, it happened at an individual level. One can go to another country for wage difference, high-quality living standard, better environment, better education, or any other causes. And in this level, one’s family directly or indirectly depends on his economic condition. According to the new economics of migration theory, labor migration is a collective decision and this decision came from his family, to benefit of extra money, for their economic security, better livelihoods, and also some few causes.

After analyzing some of these theoretical approaches, it will easily understandable, what is the main causes of so much labor migration in Bangladesh. It does not only depend on one country’s internal issues but also external causes are can be accelerated this issue. According to those theories, it is clear why the overflowing country’s labor migration rate is so high.


Labor migration overview in Bangladesh

Every year more than 400,000 people leave in another country for work. Most of them are unskilled workers, whose educational background is lower than eighth grade. And 98.3% are male workers. Although, the number of female migrant workers number is also increasing in recent years. Female migrants are mainly doing household work there.

Poverty is the main cause of why so many people are going outside for work. Bangladesh has a huge amount of population with a small land. It is difficult to employ this huge amount of people. We see that even after graduating from University every year, graduate students are not getting eligible jobs. Where the number of educated unemployment is high, it is more difficult to provide jobs to uneducated people. Technical education institutes might be solved this problem by providing various kinds of technical knowledge. But the number of the
institute is not enough and this institution also not popular among the people. The main occupation of the people of this country is agriculture. But the agricultural land amount is also decreasing day by day. The reason is that agricultural lands are now becoming factories. So every year a large number of people leave agricultural work and move to the city or if he/she is capable to manage some money he goes abroad for work. And it because of wage differences. We can say that lack of job facilities accelerates both internal and international migration rate every year.

Most of the labor migrant, who go outside, they sell their land and properties to go collect this money. In that case, they spend almost 100,000 to 1,000,000 BDT to go outside for their short time work conditions. In some cases, they get a loan from various sources to collect this money. Some survey report shows that dowry payment also used to collect this money. Going abroad with dowry money is a common practice in rural areas. Thou, dowry is illegal in
Bangladesh, but it is still going on in our society.

The situation was getting miserable when the migrant worker failed to get a job or delay in finding jobs or facing fraud. It’s happened many times. Because many workers go outside through 3rd parties or Dalal (broker). And this rate is so high among labor migrants. This broker took a large amount of money from them and promise to give them a well-paid job. After arriving, the labor finds out the salary was much lower than what the broker told. In that case, the government has not capable to do anything because of its institutional limitation. When those short-time migrant workers are failed to pay the money, which they borrowed to come here, their families were obligated to sell their household to pay this money. If he/she is unable to get a job abroad, he will have to return to the country and become unemployed again.

The Middle East is the first destination of the Bangladeshi Labor Migration. Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan are the first choice countries in the Middle East. Then Singapore, Malaysia has also a large number of Bangladeshi Migrant people. After the oil boom, Middle East need much labor to work in its oil factory. So naturally, in developing countries, people are getting the priority because of their low labor cost. After independence when Bangladesh was recognized by the Arab world and getting a membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1974, then Bangladesh’s labor rate is increasing day by day in the Middle East.


Read More: Slavery and the Forced Labor


The Institutional framework for Managing migration

This institutional framework is mainly based on Tansneem Siddiqui’s paper which named is ‘International labor migration from Bangladesh: A decent work perspective’. In this discussion, we will see how institutions work in this migration process.


Five key government ministries involved with foreign labor Migration. Ministry of Welfare and overseas employment, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of foreign affairs, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of civil aviation and tourism.

Every Ministry has its policy to deal with this issue. These ministries have five missions for labor migration “(a) exploring the potential labor market; (b) attestation of documents about recruitment; (c) providing consular services for Bangladeshi workers, and (d) ensuring the welfare of migrant workers”.

Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET)

The BMET is the executing body of the Ministry of Welfare of the expatriates. They handle overseas jobs in the respect of labor migration. “BMET is responsible for a wide range of functions including control and regulation of recruiting agents; collection and analysis of labor market information; registration of job seekers for local and foreign employment; development and implementation of training programs in response to specific labor needs both in the national and international labor market; development of apprentice and in-plant programs within existing industries; organizing pre-departure briefing sessions; and resolving legal disputes”.

Private recruiting agencies

Few private recruiting agencies also work in this sector. They have permission from the government. BMET gave this permission. They take care of their client’s work abroad, where he will stay, and all matters related to visa. For this reason, labor has to pay a good amount of money to these private agencies.

Bangladesh Overseas Employment Services Limited (BOESL)

Bangladesh Overseas Employment Services Limited (BOESL) established in 1984. And they also worked for direct recruitment role. But the number is very low.

Individual Contract

People also migrate by individual level. Those people who go outside in the earlier period, basically recruit others through their contact. They are the 3rd parties, which we have discussed before. A large number of people go by these sources. But it has many difficulties also. Sometimes in the individual sector, they face fraud people, who manage recruiter by their sweet talks, but in the end, they don’t provide that facility what they promised.

Importance of remittance for Bangladesh

In the recent decade, Bangladesh’s GDP has increased very fast. And this increasing GDP also affects this country’s people life standard. There are two sectors behind this GDP growth. Readymade garments (RMG) sectors and Remittance flow. According to World Bank Report Bangladesh is the 8th number country, which receives a large number of remittances every year. And the good news is, remittance flow is not decreased in the pandemic situation. According to the Bangladesh Bank report, the remittance flow same, as the previous time. So remittance has a major contribution to the economic development of Bangladesh.

Human rights condition of Migrant People

Migrant labor needs to be guaranteed human rights and labor rights, which will ensure them a secure working environment and healthy housing. Every year, many kinds of direct and indirect violence are reported on the workers. The violence is related to wage differences, unhealthy livelihood, insecure working environment. And also gender-based violence, sexual harassment are reported in many countries. After returning to the Middle East country, many female workers complained that they are victims of abuse and torture in the house of employers in the Arab country. But unfortunately, we don’t see any major step for the Bangladesh government to ensure those labor rights.

Recently, a new system called the Kafala System has been added to the Middle East labor migration process. Under this system, the state gives local individuals or company’s sponsorship permits to employ foreign laborers. This system falls under the jurisdiction of interior ministries, rather than labor ministries. So workers have no protection under the host country’s labor law. In the Middle East, many countries adopted this system for their benefit. And as usually, migrant workers and also some Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) who are related to migrant workers, they opposed this system. And in 2021 the Saudi authorities are looking to eliminate the notorious Kafala System.



After a certain time, those migrant labor comes back into the country. And they have some skill for a particular work. So, the government has to ensure that, how to use this skill in the local sector. If it has not happened, then those people are increasing the unemployment rate, which is a burden for any country. As well as government needs more attention to how to make the process of going abroad easier, especially for labor migrants. The Bangladesh government and international organization who work in labor-related issues, they have to pay
more attention to labor rights issues.
Bangladesh’s economy so much depends on remittance. In macro-level economic theory, it is not good for any country. Because, if there is any major loss in this sector, then the country’s economy will have to face a huge blow. So Bangladesh government also has to pay attention to other sectors. If any kind of miserable situation has happened in that sector, then the government can deal with it through another sector. Implementing such a policy is very difficult and time-consuming. This requires a long-term master plan. So far, there is no
indication of such a plan in the Bangladesh government.



Shantanu Chowdhury



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