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In search of greener pastures

Updated May 14, 2017

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RAWALPINDI: Labourers gather outside the overseas employment consultant office in this file photo to apply for jobs with a construction company in Saudi Arabia.—AFP
RAWALPINDI: Labourers gather outside the overseas employment consultant office in this file photo to apply for jobs with a construction company in Saudi Arabia.—AFP

ECONOMIC concerns, inequality and anxiety of being jobless in the local market are some reasons why so many Pakistanis try to find employment overseas. According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, around 2.5 million individuals travelled abroad over the last three years purely for employment. This is consistent with a report by the Institute for Policy Reforms to the effect that over the last 13 years, unemployment rate was the highest in 2016.

Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development Shafqat Hayat Baloch believes an estimated 3.417m Pakistanis have registered for overseas employment in the last five years.

A report from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) states that the top five professions registered in Pakistan with the organisation for overseas employment are engineer, doctor, nurse, teacher and accountant. The list also contains 43 other professions, which include carpenter, electrician, cook and plumber.

According to BEOE data, 755,029 unskilled workers moved abroad in the past three years compared to 37,671 highly qualified professionals. Overall, 78,096 people left Punjab for overseas employment, followed by 30,300 from KP and 14,552 from Sindh, up to March 2017.

Data also indicates that out of the top 50 countries where Pakistani employees end up, the Gulf region is the most fertile; Saudi Arabia and UAE being the leading destinations.

Information shows that in the past three years 10,29,113 Pakistanis moved to Saudi Arabia, 699,995 to UAE, 106,183 to Oman, 25,345 to Qatar and 19,418 to Bahrain for work. The UAE has already demanded massive manpower — both skilled and unskilled — for the World Expo 2020, and Qatar has asked for workers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Figures from the State Bank say overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to around $20bn in the fiscal year ending June 2016; a growth rate of 6.38pc compared to preceding year’s 18.2pc.

In the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, remittances from Saudi Arabia stood at $4.51bn, UAE $3.47bn and $1.88bn from the other Gulf countries. Inflows from the region contributed more than 63pc of the total remittances.

Currently, there is no data available on how many people of Pakistani origin choose to return to Pakistan to either find employment or to live here long term. Overseas Pakistanis were also not included in the recent population census.

Since the infamous 9/11 incidents and the financial crisis of 2007-10, a number of Pakistani Americans and Canadians have been returning. The recent electoral victory of Donald Trump has added to the momentum, but there are no numbers.

BEOE Director-General Kashif Noor said they have received approval for a project that would link BEOE, Nadra and the passport office “because it’s only when we link these agencies that we can have information on those who are leaving the country for employment and those coming back to find work here.”

He added: “Our approved project is for two of our offices; Karachi and Lahore. They are going to roll this out. In fact, they’ve already started off, and hopefully by the end of this year, the two offices will come online with this information.”

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2017