Study finds 47% returnee migrants in Bangladesh don’t have income source

Nearly half the migrant workers who have returned to Bangladesh amid the coronavirus pandemic now have no source of income, a study has found. 

Published on Friday, the study has revealed that 47.23 percent of the returnee migrants depend on family earnings, loans, and support of relatives as they do not have any income.

BRAC Migration Programme conducted the survey from March to April 2021 to explore and analyse the socio-economic and psycho-social situation of returnee migrants after one year of their return to Bangladesh.

Out of the 52.77 percent of the respondents who have somehow managed work, 24.19 percent are working in agriculture, 22.33 percent as day labourers, and 35.35 percent have started a small business, while 17.67 percent are doing other jobs.

From the study, it has been found that 98.32 percent of the total participants are in stress and feeling tension due to various issues, such as unemployment, having inadequate income, inability to re-migrate and family pressure.

The overall psycho-social picture of the respondents could be observed from “the fact that the satisfaction of economic life had deteriorated marginally over the period since the lockdown had been imposed”, the researchers said, noting that the number of returnees without an income source was 87 percent a year ago.

The respondents continued to exhibit relatively consistent levels of tension and anxiety since the beginning of the lockdown, it added.

A large portion of Bangladesh’s GDP, nearly 12 perent, depends on remittances sent by the migrants.

But, after the pandemic had, nearly half a million people had to return to Bangladesh from the countries of their work, said Shariful Hasan, head of BRAC’s Migration Programme.

Many of them returned due to fear of COVID-19, some of them lost their jobs as companies closed their operation, some returned permanently, while others returned on leave, he said.

Bangladeshi expatriate workers wait in a queue to give their samples for COVID-19 tests at a temporary isolation centre installed in Mohakhali’s DNCC market. The centre began collecting samples under the supervision of Dhaka district’s civil surgeon on Monday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

However, they couldn’t get back to their old jobs or re-migrate or find a new job because of lockdowns across the world.

“This has left them with severe anxiety, depression, and psychological disorders. They are having a very challenging time as it has become difficult for them to maintain their day-to-day life due to socio-economic problems,” the researchers said in the study.

As much as 28 percent of the respondents said that they have loans at present. Returnees who have loans but need employment and adequate income, have a negative impact on the social and economic aspects of their lives, the study said.

At present, the returnee migrants are facing three types of problems that includes psychosocial, social, and economic aspects, according to the study.

It has found that the returnee migrants have mentally coped with the adverse situation of COVID-19 despite their unfulfilled needs and expectation from personal and family lives.

“Even then, a continuous mental stress and tension remain among them that negatively impact their mental wellbeing.”

The researchers recommended a sustainable reintegration project, including psycho-social support, extension of social protection coverage and safety net programmes, increasing budget allocation for the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry, and formulation of an online database to help the rehabilitation of the migrants.

They also advised the government to play a critical role in negotiating with the destination countries to engage the migrant workers abroad when the pandemic subdues.

Among the 417 respondents, 72 percent of returnees want to re-migrate.