Emigration Era of Pakistan

News Desk2 months ago

Pakistan faces an uncertain future of political and economic turmoil, and its citizens see the hope for theirs in other countries as a rising trend of emigration is observed in recent years.

The number of people leaving Pakistan for more developed countries is steadily growing. The general reason for this mass exodus is ‘better opportunities’ or the potential for them at least. With the current political and economic instability in the country, people are left wanting for better jobs, better salaries, better education, better services, some form of security and stability they can no longer see in their future in Pakistan. Even if they fail to acquire a stable position outside of the country, the dream of ‘opportunity’ is still a lure for the dissatisfied citizens still in the country, both young and old.

In the first half of 2023, around 800,000 Pakistani citizens left the country. This is a concerning number and an indication of how the issue is growing, even though it falls below the 2015 figure of 946,571. In 2021, the number was 225,000 and the digits tripled to 765,000 in 2022, according to The Express Tribune. Depending on the source, the numbers vary substantially and we can only keep track of people leaving through official channels. According to an estimate from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, over 10 million people have gone abroad from Pakistan since 1971.

People of all ages are leaving the country, though it is mostly the youth as they have more opportunities to leave for education and work. Around 92,000 of the people who emigrated in 2022 were graduates consisting of 5,534 engineers, 18,000 associate electrical engineers, 2,500 doctors, 2,000 computer experts, and 1,600 nurses. With the growing cost of living, inflation, and the devaluation of Pakistan’s currency, skilled and unskilled workers are practically pushed out of the country for livable paychecks.

However, it is not just an issue of money, though it is a big motivator by itself. Pakistan has a growing population crisis which is not being addressed properly and the issue of more people, and fewer resources is another push factor for leaving the country. Lack of job opportunities and job security are long-standing issues. Currently, the country is also facing political and economic instability with the power struggles between political parties and drawbacks in securing loans from the IMF. Inflation is at an all-time high in an attempt to supplement the financial crisis and the value of Rupee is at an all-time low in the international market.

Students in the country plan to leave and the students already studying in a foreign country plan to stay there. ‘Abroad’ and ‘better quality’ are synonyms in the minds of Pakistan’s citizens and it is the same for education. With the rupee drop in value, students abroad who are relying on their family’s finances are facing issues. Not everyone can secure a scholarship or even a partial scholarship. Even with the aid of a scholarship, staying abroad is expensive and students are anxious to find the best work opportunities to justify their education. This presents little incentive for students to return to Pakistan, especially considering the state of the country.

Most of the emigrants have gone to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Others have gone to the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, the USA, and Canada. The people that to migrate to North America and Europe tend to not return to Pakistan. Others will go on a long-term or short-term work basis. How long they can stay is affected by their work opportunity and the international policies of the countries they go to. For example, GCC countries do not allow permanent stay for foreign workers.

The emigration issue has been popularly dubbed the ‘Brain Drain’ problem of Pakistan due to the loss of skilled and highly-skilled workers such as doctors, nurses, and scholars. The emigration of both skilled and unskilled workers is important as it shows a concerning trend in the country, not to mention the severe shortage of local labor in construction, transportation, and agriculture. In the case of skilled workers, their loss is considered to be one of the main causes of a drop in standards in education and health as doctors and nurses are some of the highest in-demand workers.

With more and more people leaving the country and being aware of its current state, society’s mindset on going abroad is only reinforced further. Parents look for the first opportunity of sending their children abroad and students are quick to take any chance. Graduates measure the pros and cons of other countries without even considering employment in Pakistan because they know it is the better option. The younger generation is raised with the belief that they are born in a third-world country and should settle somewhere else. It is easy to blame people, especially the younger generation, for ‘abandoning their country’ but this is unfair to the people trying to stay above the poverty line and support their families.

The causes of ‘Brain Drain’ are deeply rooted in the country and there is no quick fix for them. People need reasons to stay and that is where the country should invest. Keeping in mind that moving to another country is not an easy task. Those who leave, go with great difficulty from financing to homesickness and culture shock. Not to mention, Islamophobia has become rampant in recent years. With decent opportunities in their home country, people would be less likely to fly a thousand miles for a job.

The government, national companies, organizations, and institutes can improve working conditions within the country, raise wages, and provide benefits for skilled labor. Work-based training initiatives can also be provided for unskilled or low-skill workers. The government can also encourage entrepreneurship through support and incentives for people who want to start their own businesses. This strategy also provides more job opportunities. There are pros and cons to leaving or staying in the country and we should try to tip the balance in our favor by investing in more opportunities for work and education for the newer generations.

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