A Survey on
‘Exploring and Analyzing the Socio-economic
situation of Returnee Migrants after one year of
their return during COVID-19 pandemic’
Migrant workers play an important role in providing support to their family
members and the economy of Bangladesh by sending remittances. A large
portion of Bangladesh’s GDP depends on this remittance. But, after the hit of the
COVID pandemic in 2020, nearly half a million people had to return to
Bangladesh from the destination countries due to the COVID-19 crisis. 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. However, they couldn’t get back to their old jobs or re-migrate
or find a new job because of global lockdown. 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.
In light of this, BRAC Migration Programme conducted a survey from March to
April 2021 to explore and analyze the socio-economic and psycho-social situation
of returnee migrants after one year of their return to Bangladesh during the
COVID-19 pandemic. The survey respondents were Bangladeshi citizens who
migrated to different countries as workers and returned permanently or
temporarily in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To understand the present socio-economic situation of returnee migrants after
one year of the COVID-19 pandemic;
To know the factors, influence to promote socio-economic problems of returnee
migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is their mental condition at present?
What is their social condition at present? % of them facing social stigma toward
covid19? % of them receive any social security support from govt./NGOs/private?
For data collection, a total of 417 returnees were interviewed. These returnees are the residents of 30 districts under the 7 division of Bangladesh. For sampling, the convenience sampling method was used. Returnee migrants who returned in 2020, have access to mobile phones, and aged 18 years or above were selected for the survey. A close-ended questionnaire was used to collect the responses from the returnees. The questionnaire consisted of four parts- demographic, psycho-social, social, and economic characteristics of the returnee migrants. The survey was conducted through a mobile phone interview from 21st March to 7th April 2021. All field-level data collected were collected by the interviewers through Google form. Verbal consent was obtained from all study participants before administering the interview.
What is their economic status at present? % of them engage in income? Do they
satisfy their economic status?
BRAC Migration Programme has designed this survey to interview returnee migrants to know their socio-economic condition due to the impact of COVID- 19. Out of all the returnees who were reached out over the phone, 417 returnees responded to the interviews (30.66% response), and others mobile phones were switched off, while 207 returnees re-migrated, and some did not respond or receive the call. These 417 returnees who completed the interviews are from the 30 districts under 7 divisions out of 8 divisions of Bangladesh.
Following findings are found from the interview of 417 returnees:
Four hundred seventeen (417) returnees who were mostly interviewed belonged to the 31-35 age group. Among the total respondents, 95.68% were men, and 4.32% were women. A majority of the respondents are residents of rural areas (88.01%), and the rest are residents of urban areas (11.99%). The majority of the respondents came from the Middle East countries Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and others from Italy, the UK, Malaysia, and the rest of the countries.
19% of the respondents said that they returned to Bangladesh because of losing their job, whereas 16% were forced to return, 16% returned for fear of COVID- 19, 12% returned permanently, 2% returned due to illness, and 35% returned on leave.
The findings of the survey revealed that 47.23% of the returnee migrants don’t have any income source at present, for which they have to manage their daily lives depending on family earnings, loans, and support of relatives.
It was found in the study that 52.77% of the
respondents have somehow managed
work, of which 24.19% are working in
agriculture, 22.33% are working as day
laborers, and 35.35% have started a small business, while 17.67% are doing other jobs.
In last year’s survey, 87% of the respondents mentioned they didn’t have any earning sources, while this year it has been found 47%.
Current Economic Status
Have Income Source
Having Loan at Present
Also, 28% of the respondents
said that they have loan at
Doesn’t present and rest 72% didn’t
Have Loan 28%
Have any Loan 72%
have any current loan. Out of this 28%, 61.95% received loans after returning to Bangladesh, and 25.05% already had their previous loans. It was seen that the level
Have Loan Doesn’t Have any Loan
of satisfaction of respondents’ economic life slightly deteriorated after one year of arrival.
Among the 417 respondents, 72% of returnees want to re-migrate, of which 89% are rural residents, and 11% are urban residents, and 28% have no interest in re-migration. Data shows the highest rate (84%) of interest of re-migrate among the 26-30 age group.
As per geographic location, it has found that the highest rate (80%) of interest of re-migration is in Chattrogram division, and the interest of re-migration rate in Dhaka, Rangpur, Sylhet, Khulna, and Barisal division are 76%,62%,50%,46%, and 43%, respectively
100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%
Interest to re-migrate as per division (n=417)
BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES FROM
Not Supportive 29%
Supportive Attitude 71%
29.24% of the total returnees responded that their neighbors have shown a non-supportive attitude towards them, whereas 70.76% of
mentioned that neighbors
attitude towards them. 30% of the respondents feel that social stigma towards them still remains regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Bangladesh. Respondents were also asked about their satisfaction with family life after arrival (2020) and one year after arrival (2021).
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PsPyscyhcohlolgoigcaiclal prporbolbelmems,s, AnAxniexiteyt,ya,nadnd StSretrsesss
From the study, it has been found that 98.32% of the total participants are in stress and feeling tension due to various issues, such as unemployment, having inadequate income, inability to re-migrate, family pressure, etc. and 1.68% don’t have any issues. 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 respondents continued to exhibit relatively consistent levels of tension and anxiety since the beginning of the lockdown.
Government initiatives for expatriate workers
• The government and Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment have taken a number of initiatives for emergency support, returnees’ reintegration, including special loans and providing them with recognition of prior learning (RPL) certificates.
• Considering the dire situation, PKB’s BDT 2 billion Rehabilitation Loan Policy 2020 for COVID-19 Affected Migrant Workers was declared in May 2020 for returnee migrant workers who have lost their jobs or have lost their lives due to COVID-19. In addition, their family members will also be eligible to receive the loan at a lower interest rate (4%) for their economic rehabilitation.
• The government has created another fund worth BDT 5.0 billion as reintegration loan for returnee workers with the interest rate at 9.0 percent for male and 7.0 percent for female workers.
BRAC’s response to COVID-19
BRAC is considered one of the major stakeholders at the policy level and has been taking part in national discussion platforms since the beginning of the pandemic. BRAC’s 50,000 community health workers are actively involved in informing the public about the vaccinations, myth-busting, and directing people to vaccination services.
BRAC’s immediate short-term focus was prevention through community engagement, behaviour change, and mass campaigning. This has included creating a world-standard course on COVID-19, using it to train staff and volunteers, and then sending them to millions of households armed with information and sanitation products.
Public-private partnerships have also been created, as well as mobilizing funding from institutional and individual funders. BRAC realizes that the economic impacts of the pandemic will be protracted, and it’s beginning to focus on livelihoods, developing a mid to long-term strategy for economic revitalization of those living in extreme poverty. Amidst a highly fluid situation, BRAC focuses on remaining adaptive and agile and keeping pace with changing needs, particularly the needs of the people in the most vulnerable situations.
In 2020, after the massive influx of returnees in March, BRAC Migration Programme conducted a study named “The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Life and Livelihoods of Returnee Migrants”. Based on the survey, the programme has allocated BDT 3 crore budget for emergency cash assistance support for 7,250 returnees, out of which 5,826 returnees have already received this assistance. In addition, Migration Programme has also created a digital database of 16,000 returnees (who returned during COVID-19). Moreover, 5, 28,577 people were reached with COVID-19 prevention and protection information through social media, television, radio, mobile, and communication material dissemination to aware people about COVID-19 and social distancing. Moreover, a new initiative, Tele-counseling was given to 2,739 returnee migrant workers and their family members during COVID-19 crisis to address their mental stress and anxiety regarding home-quarantine and their declining financial condition.
➢ A sustainable reintegration project, including psycho-social support, should be launched for the returnees assessing their short- and long-term vulnerabilities and making easily accessible customized loan products to upon return of expatriate workers for engaging them into the income-generating activities
➢ Govt. should extend social protection coverage and safety net programmes either in cash or in-kind goods and services to smooth consumption and prevent falls into poverty.
➢ Govt. should increase budget allocation for the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry to ensure the welfare of the migrants and their family members and emphasize their inclusion into the govt. programme and policies in responding to the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
➢ GoB can formulate an online database that will record the skills of the return migrants and employ them in the relevant sectors when any employment opportunities arise. Private sectors should be encouraged to use these data portals and engage these returnees with a specific skill, wherever possible.
➢ Creating domestic employment opportunities for the return migrants, especially in the infrastructure development and other public provisions during and after the pandemic, would cushion the employment-related stress for the migrant workers.
➢ Allocating public and international support funding can boost paid vocational training for the returnee migrants, increasing employment opportunities for them during and after the pandemic.
➢ Bangladesh government should play a critical role in negotiating with the destination countries’ authorities to engage the migrant workers abroad when the pandemic subdues.
➢ Govt. agencies and civil society organisations should collaborate more during this pandemic to ensure better migration management.
At present, the returnee migrants are facing three types of problems that includes psychosocial, social, and economic aspects. 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. Returnees who have loans but need employment and adequate income, have a negative impact on the social and economic aspects of their lives.