Bangladeshi workers in the Gulf and the pandemic

Eight of Bangladeshi’s 160 million people live outside the country. About half, or 4.2 million, live in the Gulf region*, the second largest group in the region behind migrants from India. Most of them are unskilled and from the most poverty-ridden regions of Bangladesh. Almost all of them are contract migrants, meaning they return after a fixed tenure typically lasting between three and ten years.

These migrants have contributed to building up the vast highways, eye-catching skyscrapers, thriving industries, and world-class cities. Their cost of migration is often exorbitant, with significant shares of the recruitment fees handed off to middlemen, with the remainder covering agency fees at both ends, official costs, and plane tickets. Most become indebted to raise the funds, pawning their land, selling property, taking high-interest loans, or borrowing from relatives.

These migrants are largely left out of pandemic response programs of these countries, despite relatively high infection rates. In Saudi Arabia migrants account for 38% of the population but 76% case confirmed as of May.

Bangladesh received U.S. $18.3 billion via remittances sent via formal channels in 2019, 73% of which came from the Gulf region. Remittances were equal to 6% of the country’s $302.6 billion GDP. The World Bank predicted that South Asian countries might face a 22% decline in remittances during 2020.

*The Gulf region in this posting includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

From the Migration Policy Institute

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