Bangladesh sent more than 250 workers to Iraq as part of a drive to open a new jobs market for the nation's poor and help to ease the domestic fallout from the global downturn, a minister said Saturday.
The 252 men will be employed working on infrastructure projects in the war-torn country, and Bangladesh's labour and manpower minister Khandaker said the government hopes another 100,000 labourers will soon follow.
"There is a huge demand for workers in Iraq and we hope to send as many as they need," Mosharraf Hossain told AFP, adding that the group left on Thursday along with Dhaka's new ambassador to Baghdad.
Hossain said his government was aware of the risk its nationals would face in Iraq, but said it wanted to help with Iraq's post-conflict reconstruction and provide a new job market for its young men.Bangladesh's new ambassador to Iraq, Kamal Uddin, and its labour councillor will assess risk factors and job prospects in the oil-rich nation, Hossain said.
The opening up of Iraq as a new labour market comes as a huge relief for impoverished Bangladesh -- hard hit by a fall off in labour demand across the Middle East and South East Asia due to the global recession.
The number of overseas jobs for Bangladeshi workers plunged 47 percent in the first eleven months of 2009 as major markets in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore contracted, the government said.
According to government statistics, more than 6.6 million Bangladeshis, out of a population of 144 million, work abroad, although unofficial estimates put the figure at around nine million. In the financial year ending June 2009, Bangladeshis working abroad sent home a record 9.7 billion dollars -- more than 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and the second highest income after exports.
Bangladesh has expanded its search for new manpower markets to ride out the global recession, Hossain said, adding that Iraq's rebuilding would single-handedly create demand for hundreds of thousands of overseas workers.