Looking for way back
Mustakim Alam quit his job and came home from Kuwait amid the Covid-19 pandemic in May last year after living there for over seven years, working at a printing press.
The 30-year-old from Khulna's Paikgachha has been unsuccessfully looking for a job this last one year.
"I don't have enough cash to start a business. The savings that I brought home has already been spent on family expenses," he said.
Now Mustakim is trying to re-migrate to overcome financial hardship. He has already asked one of his acquaintances in Kuwait to secure a new work visa, for which he will have to pay between Tk 2-3 lakh, depending on the job type.
Mustakim's experience is shared by other migrant workers who find themselves unemployed back in Bangladesh. Surveys suggest people wishing to re-migrate abroad are forced by several socioeconomic drivers, including lack of job opportunities, and consider a life abroad as offering better opportunities than what can be achieved at home.
Upon returning home from Qatar in February last year, 40-year-old Murad Islam said he unsuccessfully looked for a job at local factories in Munshiganj where he lives.
He had lived in the Gulf country for seven years; earlier, he worked in Saudi Arabia from 2000 to 2005 after which he returned and opened a shop in Madhabdi, Narsingdi. Murad's shop did not run well and after several failed attempts to settle down, he flew to Qatar in 2013.
"It seems I have no alternative but to go abroad," said Murad.
These experiences were reflected in a recent survey, where Brac Migration Programme found that among 417 migrants returned home amid the pandemic, 72 percent want to re-migrate.
Of them, 89 percent are from rural areas, said the survey report published in April that explores and analyses "socio-economic and psycho-social situation of returnee migrants after one year of their return home during the pandemic".
The report said 47.23 percent of the returnees don't have any income source.
Younger migrant workers were most eager to re-migrate for work, with some 84 percent of those wishing to re-migrate belonging to the 26-30 age group, the report said. Eighty percent of the respondents wishing to re-migrate are from Chattogram division.
While trying to reach 1,360 returnees for the survey, Brac found 207 of them had already re-migrated.
Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme, said they found most of the respondents in the survey without an income source put re-migration as their "first choice".
Besides, he said, many who came home on vacation and were subsequently stuck here amid the pandemic or came home after losing their jobs, were contacted by their previous employers. So, they want to re-migrate.
TOP DRIVERS OF MIGRATION
Top drivers of migration from Bangladesh include absence of job opportunities, particularly in the formal sector; insufficient income; financial problems, and a lack of social services and limited social protection systems, said a report of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), published in August last year.
For the report, titled "Bangladesh: Survey on Drivers of Migration and Migrants' Profile", IOM interviewed 11,415 potential migrants -- either "regular" or "irregular" based on whether or not they had registered with the government -- in November-December 2019.
Most respondents, who intended to migrate by June 2020, were of working age and had attained some level of education, it said.
As many as 40 percent of the potential migrants were unemployed before deciding to migrate, and 90 percent reported no personal income or insufficient income, it added.
The report found if there were better job opportunities in Bangladesh, 99 percent of potential migrants would choose to stay in the country.
Bangladesh is the sixth largest origin country for international migrants in the world, with 7.8 million Bangladeshi migrants living abroad as of 2019, IOM said.
Over 2.2 million young adults join the labour force every year in Bangladesh, but the domestic labour market is unable to absorb all these job seekers, it said.
As per Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (Bmet) data, 1.95 lakh Bangladeshis took up new overseas employment this year, till May.
When people want to migrate abroad due to a lack of job opportunities or other alternatives, then it cannot be said migration is his or her choice, said Brac Migration Programme head Shariful.
"Migration has to be a choice," he said.
As lots of opportunities are opening up in Bangladesh at present, if these could be made "visible" to people intending to migrate, then they can have a choice, Shariful added.