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Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d'tudes du dveloppement


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Bangladeshi labour migration to the Gulf states: patterns of recruitment and processes
Md Mizanur Rahman
a a

Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore Available online: 26 Jun 2012

To cite this article: Md Mizanur Rahman (2012): Bangladeshi labour migration to the Gulf states: patterns of recruitment and processes, Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d'tudes du dveloppement, 33:2, 214-230 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02255189.2012.689612

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Canadian Journal of Development Studies tudes du de veloppement Revue canadienne de Vol. 33, No. 2, June 2012, 214 230

Bangladeshi labour migration to the Gulf states: patterns of recruitment and processes
Md Mizanur Rahman
Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore

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ABSTRACT The Gulf countries in the Middle East are one of the largest regions relying on international labour migrants for economic development. Recruitment constitutes an important part of this migration of labour. This study addresses the complexity and multiplicity of labour recruitment in the Gulf countries through a case study of Bangladeshi labour recruitment. This study examines the labour recruitment to the Gulf, combining networks and institutions to highlight both the operational and economic aspects of migrant recruitment. This article reveals how migrant networks and recruitment agencies adapt to the changing practices of recruitment to funnel migrant workers to the GCC countries and make prots out of the migrant workers in the recruitment process.
SUME gions reliant sur la migration de Les pays du Golfe constituent une des plus grandes re RE veloppement e conomique. Le recrutement joue un ro le important dans main duvre pour le de et la multiplicite du recrutement dans les pays cette migration. Ce travail addresse la complexite tude au Bangladesh. Cette e tude examine le processus de du Golfe en analysant un cas de ` rement les re seaux et les institutions qui soulignent les aspects recrutement, particulie rationaux et e conomiques de la migration. En plus, cette e tude re ve ` le ladaptation des ope seaux de migration et des agences de recrutement aux pratiques changeants dans le re gies employe es pour assurer leur prot. recrutement ainsi bien que les strate

Keywords: labour migration; migrant worker recruitment; Gulf migration; temporary migration; international migration

Introduction The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states have emerged as one of the largest regions relying on temporary labour migrants since the early 1970s (Arnold and Shah 1986, Eelens and Speckmann 1990, Shah 1994a). By the 1980s, migrant workers had outstripped the local workforce in the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) (Suter 2005, p. 28). The number of migrant workers has increased from 9 million in 1990 to an estimated 13 million in 2005 (Dito 2008, p. 6). Migrants constitute a majority of the labour force in all the GCC countries, with the average for 2004 coming to 70 per cent (Kapiszewski 2006, p. 4) and the average for 2008 reaching 77 per cent (Winckler 2010, p. 12, Baldwin-Edwards 2011, p. 9). In particular, recruitment has made it possible to hire millions of migrants to the Gulf countries for temporary employment (Eelens and Speckmann 1990, Esim and Smith 2004, Kuptsch 2006, Shah 2010).

Email: mizan@nus.edu.sg

ISSN 0225-5189 print/ISSN 2158-9100 online # 2012 Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02255189.2012.689612 http://www.tandfonline.com

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In the migration of labour, several institutions play a role in assisting prospective migrants move between regions. Such institutions include: employers who directly recruit prospective migrants; public employment services that match local workers with foreign jobs; migrant networks that facilitate access to foreign labour market; and private and for-prot recruitment agencies that serve the prospective migrants (Martin 2005, 2006, Kuptsch 2006). Together they form a recruitment structure which facilitates the recruitment of migrant workers in the Gulf. Prospective migrants may consult with and use the services of any of these labour intermediaries. Over time, however, direct employers and public employment services have substantially declined, while migrant networks and private agents have increased worldwide (Martin 2005, p. xii). In the Gulf countries, the role of direct employment and public employment services for low-skilled migrant workers has almost disappeared due to the rising number and the increasing diversity of migrants. In addition, the efciency of networks and private agencies in recruiting labour migrants has also contributed to the waning inuence of direct employers and public employment agencies (IOM 2004, Kuptsch 2006, Shah 2010, Ullah 2010). The existing literature explicitly suggests that recruitment agencies and migrant networks play a critical role in recruiting transient labour from South Asian countries to the GCC countries (Arnold and Shah 1986, Eelens and Speckmann 1990, Eelens et al. 1991, Shah and Menon 1999, Gamburd 2000, Zachariah et al. 2001). However, at a theoretical and conceptual level, most of the existing literature focuses either on the role of migrant networks or on the role of recruitment agencies in the recruitment process. The explanation of labour recruitment also tends to concentrate more on the operational aspect of recruitment that is, how recruitment takes place in the migration process as opposed to analysing the prevalence and size of economic transactions. The economic aspect of the Gulf recruitment process is crucial, yet under explored. There is also little attempt to link the operational aspects with the economic side of recruitments. Focusing on the experiences of Bangladeshi migrants to the Gulf countries, this study examines the labour recruitment process from a holistic perspective, combining both networks and institutions to highlight both the operational and the economic aspects of labour recruitment. Linking these two aspects allows the study to unravel some of the complexities which exist within contemporary migrant recruitment in the Gulf. Bangladeshi migrants have joined the Gulf countries since the mid-1970s and Bangladesh since then has emerged as one of the major labour-sending countries from South Asia. Despite being a major labour-contributing country for the Gulf, Bangladeshi labour recruitment has thus far received inadequate attention in current migration studies. This study attempts to close the gap in the existing knowledge. This study is broadly divided into two parts: the operational and the economic aspects of recruitment. In the operational dimension, the study covers a wide range of issues such as recruitment structure, licensed manpower recruiting agencies, their recruitment methods, migrant networks and their respective methods. Regarding the economics of recruitment, the study explains methods of payment for recruitment fees and provides the economic cost of recruitment to the Gulf counties. Before addressing the broader recruitment issues, the next section offers theoretical and conceptual issues to migrant recruitment in the Gulf, followed by data sources for the study. The subsequent section provides the trends and patterns of Bangladeshi migration to the Gulf countries. Part of this section describes the socio-demographic prole of the migrant workers in the Gulf, followed by a section on the kafala system under which migrants are invited to work in the Gulf countries. Theoretical and conceptual issues Network analyses have generated enormous literature, explaining how networks facilitate and sustains migration across international borders (Massey et al. 1987, Boyd 1989, Faist 2000).

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Existing studies demonstrate that non-migrants, migrants and returnees are linked to each other through social and symbolic ties that offer the social bedrock for sustained migration ows across international borders (MacDonald and MacDonald 1974, Gurak and Caces 1992, Shah 1996, Shah and Menon 1999, Rahman 2009). Social ties are often dened as a continuing series of interpersonal transactions to which participants attach shared interests, obligations, expectations and norms, such as family and kinship ties, and symbolic ties as a perceived bond to which participants attach shared meanings, memories and future expectations, such as regional, national, ethnic and religious ties (Faist 2000). The content of social and symbolic ties obligations, reciprocity and solidarity contributes to the evolution of migrant networks and the sustenance of the migration ows across international borders (Faist 2000, Massey et al. 1987). In the migrant network literature, social reward and social debt are usually behind the functioning of network-mediated migration (Boyd 1989, Faist 2000). However, there have been some changes in the modalities of network-assisted migration, especially in low-level migrant worker recruitment in the Gulf countries. This is partly due to the commercialisation of recruitment in the Gulf countries, popularly called visa-trading (Shah 2008, De Bel-Air 2011). In the visa-trading system, recruitment agents and key members of migrant networks at the destination are required to pay the Gulf employers/sponsors in order to procure work visas for prospective migrant workers. The nancial transaction involved in the visa trading has transformed the modality and scale of transactions for intermediaries of both migrant networks and recruiting agencies alike (Shah 2008, De Bel-Air 2011). Forced by market pressures, actors of migrant networks are now required to charge fees to the prospective migrant for Gulf work visas, leading to the commercialisation of network-assisted recruitment. The other key intermediary of labour recruitment is private recruiting agencies involved in serving prospective migrants for a fee. Recruitment agencies act as private gatekeepers, managing the modalities that condition access for individuals seeking overseas employment (Goss and Lindquist 1995). A recruiting agency is a national-level contact point for a foreign recruiting agency or foreign employers. Recruiting agencies usually have control over information that allows them to negotiate with prospective migrants and their potential employers. They introduce the prospective migrants to the foreign partners (employers and other recruiters). There has been a remarkable expansion of private recruitment agencies in the last few decades. In fact, there may be as many as several thousand recruiting agencies in each major source country in South Asia and South-east Asia (Martin 2006, Baruah 2006, Lian and Rahman 2006). Considering the role in the recruitment process, some scholars refer to networks as the engines of migration (Phillips and Massey 2000) and other scholar refers to recruiting agencies as the other engines of migration (Hernandez-Leon 2005, p. 2). To explain the recent changes in recruitment practices, scholars present some mid-level concepts such as migration institution, migration industry and merchants of labour (Goss and Lindquist 1995, Kuptsch 2006, Castles and Miller 2008). For instance, Jon Goss and Bruce Lindquist present the concept migrant institution, which draws on Anthony Giddenss structuration theory (Goss and Lindquist 1995). The migrant institution is conceived as a complex institution consisting of knowledgeable individuals and the agents of organisations (from migrant associations to multinational corporations) and the other institutions from kinship to the state (Goss and Lindquist 1995, p. 336). The argument is that the institution operates to facilitate overseas migration because intermediaries prot from the price that potential migrants are willing to pay. An International Labour Organization (ILO) study on migrant workers and facilitators of migration has developed the concept merchants of labour to refer to public and private agents who move workers over national borders for economic rewards (Kuptsch 2006). These merchants of labour include relatives who nance a migrants trip and provide housing and

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arrange for a job abroad, as well as public employment services and private recruitment agencies. This group includes virtually all intermediaries who make a prot from migrant workers. Another concept that has been in use for quite a while is that of migration industry; it embraces a wide range of people who earn their livelihood by organising migratory movements (Castles and Miller 2008, p. 201). Such individuals include travel agents, labour recruiters, brokers, interpreters, housing agents, immigration lawyers, human smugglers and all others who extract fees from potential migrants for their services. One commonality between merchants of labour and actors in the migration institution and industry is the service fees that they charge to the prospective migrants. These terms particularly connote the presence of a formal and commodied form of labour recruitment. While I agree that labour recruitment has been formalised and commodied over time, I also suggest that informal elements and traditional actors are still crucial to the understanding of labour recruitment in the Gulf. The terms recruitment fees and economic costs of recruitment demand a conceptual clarication. Though both recruitment fees and economic costs of recruitment refer to the expenses that migrants might incur during the recruitment process, they vary depending on the patterns of payment within the recruitment and migration process. Since male migrants are usually required to pay the expenses for recruitment out of their own pockets prior to arriving at the destination country, the economic costs of recruitment usually refer to the expenses that male migrants incur in the recruitment process. In some predominantly male migrant-sending countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, the term economic costs of recruitment is widely used. On the contrary, female migrants in Asia often do not need to pay the expenses for recruitment out of their own pockets prior to migration. This is due to the fact that sponsor-employers often pay for womens migration especially in domestic worker migration and deduct the advance payment from the monthly salary of female workers when they start working in the destination country. In some predominantly female migrant-sending countries (such as the Philippines and Indonesia), the term recruitment fees or placement fees are usually used as a substitute for the economic costs of migration (Jones and Pardthaisong 1998, Wee and Sim 2004, Rahman and Lian 2009, Lindquist 2010, Wilcke 2011). A key difference between the recruitment of men and women in the Gulf is that men must generally pay a fee to the recruitment agency prior to departure, while women usually do not (Rahman 2011). Recently, Johan Lindquist elaborates the gendered differentiated patterns of recruitment by showing that while capital ows down in the migration of women, for the migration of men capital ows up, from the migrant to the recruitment agency and sponsor (Lindquist 2010). South Asian male migrants usually enjoy the privileges of active expenses in the recruitment process, by choosing service providers themselves and paying them upfront. This quality of choosing the service providers and paying the incurred expenses upfront justies calling the payment for recruitment economic cost of recruitment rather than the seemingly binding recruitment fees. However, the critical issue in the recruitment of men from South Asia is precisely paying the economic costs of recruitment. This study is advanced in this economic context of recruitment. Data sources This research is based principally on the Bangladesh household remittance survey (BHRS) conducted in 2009. The BHRS collected information from a nationally representative sample of 10,926 migrant households. The BHRS was implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Dhaka with nancial support from the UKs Department for International Development (DFID). Unlike the small-scale surveys (e.g. small migrant worker surveys or village case studies) that limit the scope of research and delay the generalisability of the study,

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the strength of the representative survey lies in its ability to generalise the study and to elucidate the ndings with condence. In addition to the survey data, the study also draws from qualitative interviews of prospective migrants, returnees and members of migrant households in Bangladesh and of migrant workers and migrant brokers in the UAE and Qatar conducted between 2008 and 2009. The BHRS covered migrant households across the country through a nationally representative sample from all seven administrative divisions of Bangladesh.2 The districts of the seven divisions of the country were divided into two strata, with one stratum consisting of more concentration of migrant (MCM) households and the other stratum consisting of less concentration of migrant (LCM) households. Following this, clusters were formed with one or more mauzas (near synonymous with a village), depending on the clusters size as set in terms of number of general households. These clusters were selected independently from each stratum using the probability proportional to size (PPS) method of selection. The total sample was made up of 457 clusters (i.e. 257 from MCM districts and 200 from LCM districts). All households in every selected cluster were listed, identifying only the migrant households. Household listings were done by taking a complete census of the households in each of the clusters. This involved visiting every household in the designated area. In the survey, a migrant household was dened as a household that had at least one of its members living or working abroad for at least one year at the time of the survey. The selection of the migrant household was made independently of their current status (e.g. regular or irregular) in the country of destination. The head or other responsible member of the household was interviewed in the survey. The survey covered a wide range of migration issues encompassing a variety of factors: the socio-economic background of the migrants; the process and the economic cost of migration; the working and living conditions migrants faced; the remittances sent to the migrants home countries; and, nally, the impact of remittances on the migrant households. The total number of migrants in the survey was 12,893 and approximately three-quarters of the surveyed migrants (n 9,292) were working in the GCC countries. Of these 9,292 migrants, 9,154 (98.52%) were male and 138 (1.48%) were female. Given the nature of survey and the number of cases, the study is expected to produce much needed insight into the recruitment experience of Bangladeshi migrants in the Gulf countries. Bangladeshi labour migration to the GCC countries The 1973 oil boom and the subsequent undertaking of an unprecedented number of development projects led to an extremely rapid increase in the demand for foreign labour in the Gulf region (Arnold and Shah 1986, Birks et al. 1988, Winckler 2010). Among Arab countries, there was considerable labour mobility in the pre-1973 era (Humphrey 1991, IOM 2010). However, the migration of Asian labour in the post-1973 era marked a shift from predominance of Arab labour migration to Asian labour migration in the Gulf states (Arnold and Shah 1986, Humphrey 1991, Winckler 2010). Since 1975, Asian workers have gained an increasing share of the migrant labour market, and between 1976 and 1981 the annual labour migration ows of Asian workers increased sevenfold, from 146,000 to over a million (Humphrey 1991, p. 47). Asian laboursending countries accounted for more than 63 per cent of the migrant worker stock in the Gulf states in 1985 (Birks et al. 1988, p. 268). Currently, Asia is the major human resourcecontributing region for the GCC states. The GCC countries are the major destination for Bangladeshi migrants. To seize the opportunity for temporary employment in the GCC countries, Bangladesh launched a government agency called the Bureau of manpower, employment and training (BMET) in 1976. BMET keeps track of migrants who take clearance from this government agency before migrating overseas for work.

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In other words, BMET maintains authorised labour migration statistics. There is no ofcial procedure to record returning migrants to Bangladesh. As a result, the data provided below represent authorised migrants who left for work in the GCC countries. According to BMET, around 5.3 million Bangladeshi migrants joined in the GCC states between 1976 and 2010.3 Nearly 80,000 migrants went to the GCC countries for work between 1976 and 1980. The total number of emigrants departed for work in the GCC countries reached nearly 1 million between 1981 and 1990, around 1.9 million between 1991 and 2000, and approximately 2.4 million between 2001 and 2010 (Figure 1). Almost half of the total migrants joined the labour market of Saudi Arabia. The GCC countries are the major source of remittances for Bangladesh. Nearly two-thirds of the US$11 billion remittances in 2010 came from the GCC countries (World Bank 2010).

Socio-demographic proles of the migrants in the GCC countries Of the 9,292 Gulf migrants in the sample, 48 per cent of the migrants were working in Saudi Arabia, 34 per cent in the UAE, 8 per cent in Kuwait, 5 per cent in Oman, 3 per cent in Qatar and 2 per cent in Bahrain. As mentioned in the previous section, Bangladeshi migration to the Gulf countries is predominantly a male phenomenon: 98.5 per cent in the 2009 survey. Overall, approximately three-fourths of the migrants were in their 20s and 30s, the average age being 32 years. Also, around 63 per cent of migrants were married and their wives were living in Bangladesh. Of the married migrants, 87 per cent had children. Wives left behind were primarily homemakers, taking care of children and in-law families. Remittances were often the only source of incomes for these migrant households. Educational attainment of the surveyed migrants was low. Approximately 30 per cent of migrants completed only one to ve years of schooling and 50 per cent nished six to ten years of schooling. Of the remaining 20 per cent, half had no formal schooling, while the other half had nished higher secondary and other vocational training courses. In terms of employment before their migration to the Gulf countries, 81 per cent of the migrants were working in Bangladesh and were engaged in a wide range of occupations from agricultural, industrial labour to small business and artisans. After migration, major types of work these migrants were doing in the GCC countries included construction, janitorial work, driving, factory work, the hospitality industry, general labour gardening and small businesses. The duration of stay is

Figure 1. Bangladeshi labour migration to the GCC states, 19762010. Source: Authors compilation, based on data from BMET (2011a).

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considered an important indicator of economic success, as the longer the stay the more economically benecial it is for migrants. Approximately 34 per cent of migrants were living in the Gulf countries for one to two years, 22 per cent for three to ve years, and 23 per cent for six to ten years. Remarkably, nearly 20 per cent of the surveyed migrants had been working abroad for a period of 11 to 21 years or more. On average, the duration of stay of migrants was 6.27 years. The kafala system labour recruitment in the Gulf The Gulf countries have developed a sophisticated migration management system that shares two common policy stances of international migration: protectionism and the absence of any project for integrating immigrants into society (Fargues 2006, p. 18). Philippe Fargues suggests that the Gulf migration policy is protectionist in two ways: by making the entry and stay of foreign workers more difcult; and by giving priority to the employment of nationals commonly known as Emiratisation, Saudisation, Qatarisation, Kuwaitisation, Bahrainisation and Omanisation initiatives (Fargues 2006). While the former policy has achieved remarkable success, the latter policy, indigenisation of labour force, has not fully achieved its goals, resulting in sustained ow of migrant workers to the Gulf countries (Toledo 2006, Dito 2008). Labour recruitment in the GCC countries is governed by the kafala system (Shah 1994b, Longva 1999, Colton 2010, Baldwin-Edwards 2011, De Bel-Air 2011). In the kafala system, a migrant is sponsored by an employer of GCC citizens who assumes full economic and legal responsibility for the foreign employee during the contract period. The kafeel (sponsor-employer) may be an individual, a placement agency or a company/institution. The kafeel signs a form whereby he or she declares that the foreigner works for him or her, undertakes to inform the immigration department of any change in the labour contract such as expiry, renewal or cancellation, and lastly pledges to repatriate the employee upon termination of the contract (for details, see Longva 1999). The migrant worker thereby is tied to his or her kafeel. The system works such that the migrant worker can only work for him or her for a specic period. Recently, Franc oise De Bel-Air offers a two-fold classication of kafeels: small or occasional kafeels; and big kafeels (De Bel-Air 2011, p. 3). Small kafeels operate within small-scale, person-to-person frameworks such as employment of domestic workers. However, big kafeels usually set up national-level networks and possess adequate means and resources to lobby for work visas. Many big kafeels are believed to be involved in visa trading. In visa trading, the kafeel sells the work visa to the prospective migrant through intermediary for nancial benet. Since the visa trading generates kickback fees for kafeels, it has been a multi-million dollar industry in the Gulf (Shah 2008). In the UAE, for instance, a work visa for an Indian is sold for around US$2,000 (or AED7,500) (Shah 2008, p. 9) and for a Pakistani around US$2,700 to 3,000 (AED10,000 to 12,000) (Gulf News 2004). The scale of visa trading is massive. For instance, the Saudi Minister of Labour reported in the Arab News Saudi Arabia that 70 per cent of the visas issued by the government are sold on the black market and the government has been determined to crack down on this particular trade (Shah 2008, p. 9). Kafeels often hold passport and other travel documents and sometimes exploit migrants by denying proper wages and conditions of employment to them (Colton 2010, Gardner 2010). In the kafala system, the change of kafeel is not impossible but entails hurdling bureaucratic procedures. Once the employment relationship is broken, foreign workers become illegal residents. Foreign workers are not allowed to marry or be involved in sexual relationships with locals; domestic workers bodies are put under medical surveillance to detect sexual activity. The kafala system has been met with much criticism over the years. For instance, it is accused of encouraging corruption, visa trafcking, as well as the import of workers that widely outpaces labour market needs (De Bel-Air 2011, p. 10). The system ensures additional lucrative incomes for local

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sponsors and, despite some genuine interests, governments in the Gulf countries have failed to bring about meaningful changes in the visa-trading system largely because of pressure from business elites and clan members (Shah 2008, De Bel-Air 2011). It is worth mentioning that the sponsorship system is not unique to the GCC countries. This approach to temporary migration management regarding the purpose and the control mechanisms employed can also be found in East Asia and South-east Asia (Chan and Abdullah 1999, Ruhs 2002, Piper 2004). Temporary migration programs are, in essence, a demand-driven system that serves the interests of both parties employers and migrants (Rahman 2008). On the one hand, it is efcient in satisfying the needs of employers and is therefore capable of generating higher benets for the host country. On the other hand, it is economically benecial for the migrants and their home countries because it spawns remittances that directly go to the migrant families who genuinely require these funds. However, the kafala system has been misused to create nancial gain from the potential migrants through the help of intermediaries in the recruitment process. The operational aspect of recruitment Recruitment structure In the recruitment process, prospective migrants in Bangladesh use the services of four public and private institutions the BMET (Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training), Bangladesh Overseas Employment Services Limited (BOESL), recruiting agencies and migrant networks and together they form a semi-coherent system of governance that facilitates smooth ows of labour overseas. The Bangladeshi governments most prominent structure regulating migration is the BMET, established in 1976. The BMET issues and renews the licenses of recruiting agencies, grants permission to agencies to recruit, provides immigration clearances after verifying visa papers and employment contracts, looks after the welfare of Bangladeshi workers abroad and manages many other functions related to training of workers and promotion of migration overseas. Presently, the BMET is under the administrative control of the newly established Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment. While the BMET supervises and controls recruitment, actual recruitment takes place through three other channels: a government-run organisation called BOESL; private recruiting agencies; and migrant networks. The government-run organisation for overseas employment established in 1984, BOESL is mainly involved in migration of highly skilled professionals overseas. The role of BOESL in skilled and professional migration is not necessarily signicant. Out of 179,910 professional migrants who took up overseas placement between 1976 and 2008, only 14,811 professional migrants found jobs through the BOESL (BMET 2011b). The agency coordinates with Bangladeshi missions abroad in assessing the needs of labour and puts up advertisements in newspapers for recruitment. BOESL is seen as a model institution in the manpower sector to work in healthy competition with the private agencies. Private recruiting agencies emerged in response to the growing demand for labour overseas in the late 1970s. There are around 700 licensed private recruiting agents in Bangladesh (BAIRA 2011). The government regulates recruiting agencies through a combination of economic leverage and bureaucratic requirements. Recruiting agencies assisted nearly 37 per cent (2.33 million) of a total of 6.26 million overseas job placements between 1976 and 2008 (BMET 2011b). Recruiting agencies have a guild known as the Bangladesh Association International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), formed in 1984 with the purpose of catering to the needs of the licensed recruiting agencies. BAIRA is also involved in the welfare of the migrants overseas. They have launched two insurance schemes: one is for the workers before their departure and the other is for their families left behind, through BAIRA Life Insurance Company Limited. BAIRA is also setting

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up a modern medical testing center with elaborate facilities for migrants who need to undergo medical tests before leaving the country. Personal connections form a crucial avenue for overseas placement in Bangladesh. These reportedly assisted 62 per cent (3.88 million) of a total of 6.26 million overseas job placements between 1976 and 2008 (BMET 2011b). The growth of migration through personal connections is cumulative. More and more migrants have started taking the services of personal networks over the years. For instance, 524 migrants took the services of personal networks in the year 1976, which escalated to 16,585 in the year 1980, 63,121 in the year 1990, 130,686 in the year 2000, and 665,092 in the year 2008. As per the survey data, nearly 58 per cent of surveyed migrants (9,292) took the services of personal networks to migrate to the GCC countries. Recruiting agencies served the remaining 42 per cent.

Recruiting agencies: the work visa Migration for work though a recruiting agency proceeds as follows (see Figure 2). A recruiting agency in a Gulf country places a demand letter with their counterpart in Bangladesh, asking for certain number of migrants for certain occupations. The recruiting agency in Bangladesh then approaches BMET for initial clearance. Once the agency gains approval, they actively search for prospective migrants and ask them to submit passport, pictures, biographical information, work experience (including relevant certicates) and a partial payment to begin the recruitment process. At this juncture, the Bangladeshi recruiting agency contacts their counterpart in the Gulf for visa processing. The potential sponsor-employer will then secure the visa from the relevant authority and pass the visa to the recruiting agency in the receiving country. This foreign recruiting agency then sends the visa to the recruiting agency in Bangladesh. From the time the potential migrants give their passport to the agency to the time they can commence work abroad, as little as a few weeks or as much as several months may pass. Although an overview of how recruiting agencies work may seem simple, the actual recruitment procedures are much more complex and multilayered. Along with formal recruiting agents, some informal agents located at different points throughout the system have come to assist in the process. Generally, most prospective migrants hail from villages in Bangladesh, but recruiting agencies based in the capital city of Dhaka encounter difculties locating prospective migrants who might be suitable for particular jobs and who are ready to pay the required fees. As a result, the recruiting agents rely overwhelmingly on a group called subagents who act as middlemen between a prospective migrant and a licensed recruiting agent. For an extra fee, these subagents help prospective migrants nd jobs and help agencies nd prospective workers in a more timely fashion. Although the position of subagent in the ofcial structure is marginal, they play a critical role in matching the demand for specic labour and the supply of such labour. The subagents approach the prospective migrants and convince them to take up the particular offer in the GCC countries. The tru,e challenge of this job is the subagents need to earn the trust of prospective migrants. Given the fact that migration can incur costs of several thousands of dollars, a prospective migrant from a village prefers to deal with someone who embodies trust such as rural religious, economic and political elites, so that they have a local contact to approach in cases of fraud and exploitation. Subagents are generally based in small cities or villages and have good contacts with these elites, if they themselves are not already one. Subagents assist prospective migrants with a wide range of activities such as paperwork, passports, bank accounts, medical checkups and transportation to the airport. In addition to facilitating the actual migration process, they sometimes vouch to the traditional moneylenders that potential clients have already secured jobs in the Gulf and therefore are eligible for credit. They can even act as guarantor for

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some potential migrants who otherwise could not secure loans for migration, expanding the role of subagents beyond the simple matching task.

Personal connections: the urro or ying (work) visa As migration matures, many potential migrants learn more about the process of migration and the way to seek alternative services for jobs in the GCC countries. Instead of nding jobs with agencies, many potential migrants seek jobs arranged with sponsor-employers in the Gulf countries through some migrant brokers already connected by social and symbolic ties. Migrant brokers, or what Bangladeshi migrants call dalal (broker) or adam babshahi (human-trader), are usually former migrant workers living in the Gulf countries for a considerable amount of time and having greater access to local recruitment structure and visas. A working visa arranged through personal networks is called urro or a ying (work) visa, as it ies directly from a migrant broker in the Gulf countries to a prospective migrant in Bangladesh, bypassing local recruiting agencies and their subagents. This is different from getting a visa through a recruiting agency. In the recruiting agencies, a sponsor-employer passes the visa to a foreign recruiting agency, which later goes to the Bangladeshi recruiting agency and nally to the prospective migrant. Arranging a ying visa usually proceeds as follows (see Figure 2). A migrant broker nds a job for a friend or relative with usually his kafeel (sponsor-employer) or kafeels network of friends and relatives. After successfully identifying a potential kafeel, a migrant broker arranges for a photocopy of a passport, a picture and other relevant papers depending on the prole of employee (skilled or unskilled) to pass to potential kafeel for a work visa. Once a work visa is procured, the migrant broker sends it to the potential migrant in Bangladesh with a request to nish all local procedures such as medical check-ups, BMET clearance, and y to the particular Gulf country within a stipulated period (usually less than three months). The ying visa benets the mediating contact, as he charges a commission to the potential receiver, and the kafeel, as he saves agency fees in his country of origin, in addition to kickback fees in most cases. More importantly, the strategy of procuring a working visa through personal connections demonstrates the individual migrants ability to circumvent bureaucratic procedures and the

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Figure 2. Recruitment structure for Bangladeshi labour migration to the GCC states.

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rising costs of Gulf migration. Since the procurement of a ying visa does not involve local mediators in Bangladesh, in particular the subagents and agents, the ying visa benets the potential migrant who receives it. Depending on the nature of ties (social or symbolic ties) between prospective migrant and migrant broker, the amount of the fees and the timing of payment can vary considerably. The direct benet of a ying visa is that the recipients usually pay part of the set fees out of the rst several monthly wages in the destination country, forestalling indebtedness to moneylenders in Bangladesh. Although the ever-increasing costs of recruitment have made it difcult for many poor potential migrants to secure jobs in the Gulf countries, a thriving trade in ying visas has opened the door of affordable employment for a growing number of Bangladeshis in the GCC countries. It is important to note that the Bangladeshi migration to the Gulf countries is deeply rooted in the social process organised through networks and forged through everyday interpersonal connections (Rahman 2010). It is founded on a social organisation infrastructure that includes common bonds of kinship and friendship, which are adopted and transformed through the reciprocity of mass migration. A landless villager in Bangladesh may be poor in nancial capital but is often rich in social resources (social capital) inherent in such close-knit connections. The beauty of social capital is that it is convertible into other forms of capital such as nancial capital or access to overseas employment. The actual merit of personal connections is that it increases affordability of Gulf migration for those in the social stratum, who may not otherwise envision undertaking such a costly venture. From ying visa to free visa Apart from ying visas, there is another type of visa popular among potential Bangladeshi migrants in Gulf countries called a free visa. This type of visa is an invention of migrant brokers in the Gulf countries who are involved in the trade of work visas. Although there is no ofcial category of visas called free visas in the Gulf countries, the term is widely used among migrant communities. Pakistanis and some Indian Muslim migrants call it an azad (free) visa. This unofcial category of visas allows a potential migrant to enter a GCC country for work under kafala system, but the sponsor-employer (kafeel) who ofcially sponsors the migrant does not offer paid work. A migrant on a free visa is free to nd his own job in any sector of economy, although it is illegal to work in another sector or with a sponsor-employer other than ones own (Shah 2008, p. 7). In other words, a free visa is legal, but paradoxically when a free-visa holder starts working for others, he becomes illegal by law and vulnerable to deportation. A free visa is also obtained through procedures similar to those described above using personal networks and recruiting agencies (Figure 2). Both migrant brokers and recruiting agents are involved in the trade of free visas in Bangladesh. As there are no legal jobs available for a freevisa holder, a free visa is cheaper than ying visa. Many migrant brokers do not recommend a free visa to their close relatives for the fear that they may lose social credibility and respect in their communities of origin should the free-visa holder fail to nd gainful employment and face deportation. As a for prot organisation, recruitment agencies dominate the free visa market. Like many work visas and ying visas, free visas also generate kickback fees for sponsors/ kafeels and this has perhaps given birth to such a dubious category of visas in the Gulf. The benet of a free visa is that the holder can bargain their labour and get a good deal. However, the tradeoff is that if the free visa holder is caught during working hours by the law enforcement authorities, then the holder risks deportation. Several Gulf countries have pledged to tackle the issue of free visas and have taken action against people who have abused the system by bringing in thousands of foreigners and enabling them to stay for a monthly monetary sum (Pakkiasamy 2004).

Bangladeshi labour migration to the Gulf states The economic aspect of recruitment

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In the case of Asian migration to the Gulf countries, wages have fallen and agency recruitment costs have risen (Gardner 2010, p. 60). To explain this situation in the Gulf countries, Gamburd (2000, p. 63) has identied changing international economic dynamics as the factors leading to increasing agency fees and decreasing wages. The benets of Gulf migration dwindled in the 1980s when employer-sponsors lowered commissions paid to recruiting agencies in the Gulf countries (Gamburd 2000, Gardner 2010). With an apparently endless supply of surplus labour in source countries in several regions, agencies of these countries can often afford to bargain away workers benets in order to secure jobs and to stay in business. Agencies in sending countries easily pass the burden of higher fees to potential migrants. Moreover, most sponsor-employers also refuse to pay for airfares, passports and medical examinations for prospective migrants. Therefore, in addition to recruitment fees, most Asian migrants are also bearing these expenses for migration to the Gulf. According to the data gathered in the BHMS, the economic cost of recruitment to the GCC states was on average BDT195,237 or US$2,750 (2010 exchange rate) (Figure 3). The highest average cost was BDT221,683 or US$3,132 for Bahrain and the lowest was BDT174,021 or US$2,458 for Kuwait. This average cost of migration is higher than the cost set by the Bangladeshi government. The government establishes a price of BDT84,000 (US$1,230) as a maximum recruiting charge for migrants going to Gulf states (Martin 2010, p. 12). Given the reported average costs of migration, it is obvious that recruiting agencies largely ignore this maximum. In recognition of the high cost of migration, this study delves into distribution of recruitment expenses. For the convenience of understanding, the study divides the economic cost of recruitment into formal fees and intermediary fees. Formal fees include government fees, passport fees, air tickets, wage earners contributions and other relevant mandatory service fees in Bangladesh. Intermediary fees include both recruiting agency and migrant broker fees and fees charged by other facilitators such as subagents and network members. Formal fees represent around 23 per cent (US$633), while the intermediary fees nearly 77 per cent (US$2,117). The fee for intermediaries is excessively high as a kickback is inherent in the intermediary fees. Some Bangladeshi recruiting agents and migrant brokers reported the kickback fee between US$1,500 and US$1,800 for each work visa. However, the kickback fee varies depending on the sector of economy. The kickback fees for work in construction sector are reported to be the lowest as it is more demanding and less rewarding, while the fees for the service sector are the highest as the sector is viewed as less demanding but more rewarding. The kickback fee, intermediary fee and subagent fee are charged unofcially, leaving no trace for documentary proof

Figure 3. Distribution of economic cost of recruitment.

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or legal recourse. When the survey asked about the rising cost of migration, actors at different levels often turned their discussion of unethical behavior toward actors elsewhere in the institutional structure. The different perspectives reveal conicts and contradictions within the recruitment structure in the Bangladesh Gulf migration corridor. Conclusion This study has shown how recruitment of labour takes place across international borders by linking and explaining both the operational and the economic aspects in the example of Bangladeshi labour recruitment to the Gulf states. The study illustrates the role of both institutional and network players in the recruitment process. It continues to elaborate the kafala system that forms the legal basis for labour recruitment in the GCC countries. The policies of entries and exits for migrant labour are mostly dictated by economic imperatives and informed by the principle of minimal social disruptions. This study has also explained how the recruitment structure of Bangladesh has evolved over time to facilitate the recruitment of millions of migrants to the Gulf countries. Four major players are identied: the BMET; BOESL; recruiting agencies; and migrant networks. These form a semi-coherent system of governance and facilitate Bangladeshi migration to the Gulf countries. The study has shown that recruiting agencies and migrant networks are currently the actual players in labour recruitment in Bangladesh. The recruitment agencies and migrant brokers have different yet complementary roles in the overall recruitment process. Recruiting agencies work in collaboration with their counterparts in the Gulf countries and use subagents to reach to the potential migrants. They are formal prot-making organisations serving prospective migrants who seek jobs in the Gulf labour markets. In network-based recruitment, a migrant broker in a Gulf country secures a work visa, known as a ying visa, for prospective migrants in Bangladesh. The prospective migrants and migrant brokers are often connected by social and symbolic ties. The migrant broker charges fees for services, but a full payment is not always required depending on the level and strength of ties; the prospective migrant may pay off a part of the set fee after working in the destination countries for the rst few months. The study has documented the ingenuity of migrant brokers in circumventing the conventional route to labour recruitment. Migrant brokers have invented other types of visas, the urro visa (ying visa) and the free visa to meet the increasing requests from relatives and community members in Bangladesh. When a visa is procured through personal networks, bypassing local recruiting agencies and their subagents in Bangladesh, it is popularly called an urro visa. Since an urro visa does not require local mediators services, it is relatively more affordable for potential migrants. The invention of the urro visa demonstrates the capability of migrant agency to circumvent bureaucratic procedures and rising costs of Gulf migration. With the other type of visa, called a free visa in Bangladesh and an azad visa in Pakistan and India, the kafeel is not liable for offering paid jobs to the visa holder; the holder is free to nd his own job and bargain his labour costs. Thus, the free visa represents the ultimate will of migrants to nd their jobs themselves and exercise bargaining power over their labour by being independent of kafeels everyday interventions in the Gulf. This study has shown how economic transactions in the recruitment process generate prot for service providers such as recruiting agents, subagents and migrant brokers in Bangladesh and the Gulf. The economic cost of migration for migrants is quantied, as are the nancial benets migration generates for different service providers in the recruitment process. Of an average cost of US$2,750, nearly 23 per cent of the recruitment cost is spent on government fees, agency fees, passport fees, airfares and other related expenses, while the remaining 77 per cent goes to intermediaries such as recruitment agents, migrant brokers, subagents and other

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facilitators. The study has pointed out that intermediary fees also contain kickbacks for the Gulf-based recruiting agencies. While this study has attempted to provide valuable insights into the recruitment of Bangladeshi migrants in the GCC countries, it could not shed light on some other aspects of recruitment such as political economy of recruitment at both ends. This study should be seen as an initial investigation of an understudied subject, and building on it can further the analysis of migrant recruitment in the Gulf. Acknowledgements
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The author wishes to thank International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Dhaka, for providing access to the Bangladesh Household Remittance Survey data. Special thanks go to Rabab Fatima, Regional Representative, IOM-Dhaka, Samiha Huda and Disha Sonata Faruque, also of IOM-Dhaka, who all provided support and were a joy to work with. The author would like to thank two anonymous reviewers of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies for their insightful comments on the draft version of this article. The author also wishes to thank Nasra Shah and Philippe Fargues for their comments at the presentation of this paper at the Gulf Research Meeting, University of Cambridge, 69 July 2011.

Biographical note
Md Mizanur Rahman is a Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies, National University of Singapore. His research interests include labour migration, diaspora, migrant entrepreneurship and remittances. He is currently working on global South Asian diasporas and their engagements with South Asia. He has published in International Migration, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Asian Population Studies, Journal of International Migration and Integration and Population, Space and Place, among others.

Notes
1. 2. Bangladesh is divided into major administrative regions called divisions and each division is further split into districts. In total, there are 7 divisions and 64 districts in Bangladesh. The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, Bangladesh (BMET) is responsible for recordkeeping and granting permission to overseas jobseekers. The BMET posts vital migration statistics online at http://www.bmet.org.bd.

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