Source: Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment
Source: Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment

Brain drain is bad, but remittances are good; that is the Catch-22 of our economy. While many upper-middle-income groups are exploring immigration options, Pakistan’s remittances stem mainly from blue-collar workers such as labourers and drivers.

Almost half of the people emigrating are from Punjab, and nearly a third are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whereas Sindh’s and Balochistan’s numbers are relatively insignificant.

Sialkot and Gujranwala in Punjab have a high migration profile in terms of manpower export, whereas in KP, Swat, Mardan and Upper Dir contribute the most numbers, according to the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment.

It is a no-brainer to say that people want to emigrate because they want better livelihoods and income opportunities. But the factors that motivate people differ. According to the report “Pakistan: Survey on Drivers of Migration by the International Organisation for Migration”, the top reason for migration in KP is unemployment, whereas for Punjab it is that family encourages it.

Transnational linkages matter as well. More than a third of respondents in the report said they gathered information about their intended destination through social media with friends or family abroad. Naturally, if a man’s brother is a driver in Saudi Arabia and his wife and kids live a relatively better life, he is more likely to want to emigrate as well.

According to the report, 70pc of respondents reported that they already had friends or family living in the intended destination. Thus it is a cycle: the more manpower that a province exports, the higher the likelihood of its residents seeking opportunities abroad.

Another factor is connectivity with an urban hub which makes accessing information and processing applications easier. These factors explain why Balochistan has few emigrants and Punjab has the most.

Manpower export and the wealth of remittances have an impact on agriculture as well. For example, in Gujrat, almost every middle-class family has a part of it settled abroad. Since the people are not dependent on agri-income, they do not invest, treating the farmlands as a perfunctory function rather than an income-generating enterprise.

Decisions are made based on personal circumstances, not whether it helps the country or locality. Inflation and joblessness in Pakistan is making emigration more attractive. As the educated look towards the West for better opportunities, the blue-collar workers strive for employment in the Gulf regions in the hopes of providing a better life for those left behind.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 22nd, 2023

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Rule by law

Rule by law

‘The rule of law’ is being weaponised, taking on whatever meaning that fits the political objectives of those invoking it.

Editorial

Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...
X post facto
Updated 19 Apr, 2024

X post facto

Our decision-makers should realise the harm they are causing.
Insufficient inquiry
19 Apr, 2024

Insufficient inquiry

UNLESS the state is honest about the mistakes its functionaries have made, we will be doomed to repeat our follies....
Melting glaciers
19 Apr, 2024

Melting glaciers

AFTER several rain-related deaths in KP in recent days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has sprung into...