Officials from Qatar and Bangladesh have agreed to a deal that could double the number of Bangladeshi workers in Qatar over the next two years, according to media reports.
According to Bangladeshi news agency UNB, Qatari authorities are keen to recruit some 300,000 more nationals in the near future.
There are currently an estimated 280,000 Bangladeshis living in Qatar.
The new labor deal has come about after talks in Doha this week between the Bangladeshi Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam and Qatar’s Labour and Social Affairs Minister Issa Saad Al-Jafali Al-Nuaimi.
Crucially, the announcement signals a shift in focus away from hiring mostly unskilled laborers, toward hiring qualified staff like nurses, doctors, engineers and office workers, UNB reports.
Last year, another Bangladeshi delegation visited Qatar and agreed to a deal with the Qatari government for 50,000 more visas for Bangladeshi workers.
Announcing that deal, Bangladeshi’s previous Overseas Employment Minister, Khandker Hossain, said that Qatar had agreed to force local companies to only hire nationals who are registered in a government database in their home country, a move designed to stop its nationals from becoming victims to human traffickers and recruitment scams.
It is not clear whether this agreement was acted upon, and whether the new deal includes this stipulation.
Bangladeshi ambassador Syed Masud Mahmood Khundoker told Doha News last year that the most common grievance from Bangladeshi workers in Qatar involved paying unscrupulous recruiters in Qatar for work visas that never materialized for friends or family members back home.
Next month, Bangladeshi authorities are expected to form a working group in Dhaka to act on the agreement and focus efforts on meeting the 300,000 target.
The government is keen for more of its nationals to work in Qatar because expats are a vital part of the Bangladeshi economy, with the money its overseas workers send home each year making up around ten percent of the country’s GDP.
The Bangladeshi Bureau of Statistics says most of these workers (97.4 percent) are male, married (67.1 percent) and Muslim (97.8 percent.)
They’re also mostly under the age of 39 (78.2 percent) and 61.5 percent of them have had less than 10 years education.
Bangladeshi officials are keen for more skilled workers to travel to Qatar for two reasons: firstly because they are likely to send more money home, and secondly because there is a lack of jobs for graduates in Bangladesh, with more than 40 percent of grads struggling to find work.
Bangladesh Embassy officials estimate that between 7,000 and 8,000 new Bangladeshis come to Qatar each month, and up to 70 percent of these work in the construction sector.
The remainder work as engineers, managers, Islamic scholars and approximately 9,000 are domestic workers, according to Mohammed Serajul Islam, the embassy’s labor counselor.
The latter in Qatar work for a Bangladesh government approved minimum rate of $205 (QR750) a month.