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Illegal foreign workers narrowing local job market

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12th-Feb-2018       
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THE National Board of Revenue (NBR) is going to initiate the second phase of sudden inspection to at least 30 factories to find out illegal foreign workers. The NBR in October last year initiated the move to check income tax evasion by foreign nationals working in the country with the connivance of their employers and found only one company, out of five which was complaint to the NBR rules. When the country is undergoing severe unemployment crisis which pushes hundreds of thousands of youths to migrate abroad by putting their life at risk, several lakh foreigners employed in the manufacturing and telecommunication sectors remit money to their nations --- mostly India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, China, and Japan. Bangladesh has become the second highest source country for remittance inflows for Indian nationals, though only a small number of them is documented with NBR.

The Revenue Board has asked its 30 field-level income tax offices recently to send names of two factories each under their jurisdiction which employs foreign nationals. The task force will finally select the companies at which the sudden drives would be conducted. This time the factories would be selected for the drives based on the risk factors including the possibility of employment of illegal foreigners and the demand for foreign workers.

As per rules, employers must obtain a permit from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority and other agencies concerned for recruiting each foreigner. Foreign workers will also have to pay income tax at the rate of 30 percent. But income tax officials suspect that many foreigners are evading tax as most of them are working in the country without the approval of the BIDA and other related agencies. On average, 11,000 foreigners have tax files with the NBR though different agencies including the NBR suspect that the number of foreign workers in the country to be several lakhs. They are mostly working in textile, readymade garments, engineering, manufacturing, and services sectors.

The problem has two sides - the companies need skilled manpower for optimum output and the local universities have failed to produce needs-based skilled manpower. The scarcity of skilled and experienced manpower for managerial and operational roles forced the companies to hire foreigners at a higher salary and perk. There's a gap between industries and universities as most of the local universities have no connection with industries and are unaware about the necessity. The two parties should come up to bridge the gap that ultimately brings benefit for both universities and industries in particular and the country in general. The government, University Grants Commission, business chambers and the NBR could float the platform where cross bridging would be started and foreign employers would be phased out.

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