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The intake of Bangladeshi workers in South Korea is still low despite various governmental efforts at different times. Sources in the embassy of Bangladesh in Seoul said approximately 15,000 Bangladeshi legal workers are working in South Korea, mainly in the manufacturing sector. - A home for your website

According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), as many as 475 Bangladeshi workers got jobs in South Korea in the first seven months of 2017. From July 2017 to November 2018, a total of 3,111 Bangladeshi workers migrated to South Korea as semi-skilled workers, as per Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Ltd (BOESL).

In 2016, a total of 1,689 Bangladeshis went to South Korea while it was 2,369 in 2015, the BMET data shows. From 2008 to June 2018 BOESL has sent 18,936 workers to South Korea under EPS Program.

The embassy sources also said they are taking various initiatives to increase the numbers of the workforce in new areas for Bangladeshi workers.

The embassy said there is a growing demand for caregivers in South Korea and this sector can be a new area of job opportunities for Bangladeshi workers to tap.

South Korean mainly takes in more workers from Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) because of their efficiencies and similarities in lifestyles and food habits.

Sources in the ministry of expatriates" welfare and overseas employment said they are trying their best to increase the intake of workers in South Korea by imparting proper training to workers. The ministry said at least 36 new workers are going to South Korea within a week as all their procedures have been completed.

“South Korea is a good market for Bangladeshi workers. The companies recruit manpower for a tenure of five years and salaries ranging from Tk 1 to 3 lakh per month.

Hence, it is really a good market for us. We are trying to increase the intake of Bangladeshi workers by holding talks with the government,” Rownak Jahan, secretary in charge of the ministry of expatriates" welfare and overseas employment, said on Tuesday.

Sources in the foreign ministry said efforts have to be carried out relentlessly between the two countries through diplomatic channels to expand the job market for the Bangladeshi workforce in South Korea.

During a recent meeting of the South Korean ambassador to Bangladesh, Hu Kang, with state minister of foreign affairs, Shahriar Alam, the matter of increasing the intake of Bangladeshi nationals for recruitment under the Employment Permit System (EPS) came to the fore.

Mentioning the EPS of South Korea as an exemplar in the recruitment of foreign workers, Alam requested the ambassador to take up the matter of recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in South Korea, an important development partner of Bangladesh.

South Korea started the EPS initiative in 2004, replacing the previous Industrial Trainee System, following allegations of irregularities and high migration costs.

The intake of Bangladeshi workers into South Korea was prohibited for a long time. Bangladesh started sending workers in 2008 after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea in 2007.

However, the intake of Bangladeshi workers still has not increased on a large scale although perks were given to the employers of South Korea for recruiting the highest number of Bangladeshi workers in different sectors, especially manufacturing.

Asked about the steps taken to increase the intake, Mokima Begum, first secretary (labour) of the embassy of Bangladesh in Seoul, recently told The Independent over e-mail: “The Embassy is trying to increase the numbers of our labour force by publicising it in the local media, by awarding the employers who employed the highest number of Bangladeshi workers.”

“Bangladeshi workers are mainly employed in the manufacturing sector. But there are opportunities to employ Bangladeshi workers as caregivers because this sector has great potential and demand in South Korea,” she added.

Apart from the legal workers, there are illegal Bangladeshi workers whose numbers are not known yet.

However, the embassy in Seoul is persuading such illegal workers to go back home to be regularised under the EPS.

In reply to a query of what the embassy is doing for illegal Bangladeshi workers in South Korea, she said, “The embassy is trying to motivate the illegal workers to go back to Bangladesh.”

She said labour wing officials along with other officials of the embassy are working hard to provide the best services to the EPS workers and other members of the Bangladeshi community living in South Korea.

Meanwhile, the embassy of Bangladesh in Seoul has taken an initiative for the EPS workers by introducing higher secondary school (HSC) distance learning programme on April 1.

The Bangladesh embassy, Seoul and Bangladesh Open University have jointly taken the initiative to help the workforce achieve educational skills and proficiencies, which will aid them in their respective fields of work.

The embassy said they are taking various steps to increase the efficiency and skills of Bangladeshi workers so that their goodwill can attract the employers of South Korea to take them in more. “We want our workers to work properly and efficiently to earn goodwill so that the job markets become wider by their performances,” Rownak Jahan said. She also said they are talking to the government of South Korea to open up new areas for Bangladeshi workers.