KARACHI: Over 87 per cent of Pakistanis looking for overseas jobs went to the United Arab Emirates and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 2019, data shared by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment as quoted by the State Bank of Pakistan showed.
The figures show pre-Covid-19 trends as the pandemic has almost halted the emigration for jobs to the Middle East. Despite that, the inflow of remittances from the region is still high but the persistently low oil income of Saudi Arabia and shocks to the UAE economy have put jobs of overseas Pakistanis at risk.
Pakistan received around $5.4 billion from Saudi Arabia and $4.7bn from UAE with a growth of 8.6 per cent and 1pc respectively in the previous fiscal year. The country received record $23bn remittances in the same year with a growth rate of over 6pc. However, during the year, nearly 70pc of the workers registered for employment fell under the category of labourer and drivers during 2019.
Pakistanis in the region are generally doing low-paid jobs particularly in the UAE where workers of Indian origin are preferred for white collar jobs.
Global organisations like the World Bank have predicted low remittances in the ongoing fiscal year.
Saudi Arabia which depends largely on oil income has been suffering from persistently low oil prices in the international markets while global oil consumption has also dropped. Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia may not find new jobs while their present jobs may also be at risk.
“Low paid jobs have lesser risks than high-paid jobs,” said an analyst adding that labours and drivers would be the last to leave the land of opportunities.
Pakistanis have better jobs in the United States and the country received $4.2bn with a 26pc growth in FY20. However, this source of remittances may also suffer due to high unemployment in USA as more than 40m have lost their jobs since the pandemic engulfed the country.
“I was told by the company that my job would be over at the end of August,” said Engineer Khursheed Anwar from New York. He works as civil engineer for local bodies projects in New York City. He said the government says it has no money for new projects.
Workers would find it more difficult to stay in UAE as the country has lost trade and tourism which yield most of the income for Emirates. Thousands of Pakistanis have investment in that country. Few years back Pakistan was the single largest investor in Dubai properties. Due to lost tourism and falling trade activities, the property prices would also see a decline.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2020