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The other option

March 31, 2013

Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Nadeem Ashraf talks to Mubarak Zeb Khan on the issue of people going abroad in search of jobs.

With the government’s failure to provide employment opportunities to the country’s emerging youth, the overseas labour market has emerged as the only hope for the unemployed job seekers.

This is evident from the fact that in 2012 approximately 0.62 million people went abroad, especially to the Middle East, in search of employment; the bulk of them for blue-collar jobs, states Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Nadeem Ashraf.

He says that he can foresee more people seeking jobs in the overseas market in the years ahead because of poor prospects at home. During 2012-13, the ministry projects 0.7m people going abroad. “Only in the past two months 115,000 people have gone abroad for employment,” Ashraf says.

In total 7.5m Pakistanis are working in various countries, which is four per cent of the total population. About 3.5m, i.e. 52% of the Pakistanis employed overseas, are in the Middle East, of which 1.5m are working in Saudi Arabia, 1.2m in Kuwait, 1.03m in UAE, 90,000 in Bahrain and 87,000 in Qatar.

In the developed countries, 1.2m Pakistanis are in the UK, 70,000 in Germany, 90,000 in Greece, 70,000 in France, 90,222 in Italy, 65,000 in Thailand and 41,830 in Malaysia; whereas 900,000 Pakistanis are working in the US followed by 300,000 in Canada.

According to the figures compiled by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, during the last five years (2008-2012) around 2.3m people left the country for employment because of the downslide in the domestic economy. The people who emigrated include 38,020 highly qualified people, 75,303 highly skilled, 959,377 skilled people and 189,342 semi-skilled people. The highest numbers were of unskilled workers, which stood at 1,030,184.

The government only selected 2,000 to 3,000 people for overseas employments as part of the government-to-government contracts. According to Ashraf, his ministry’s role was only to facilitate overseas employment by providing language courses and other facilitation measures. The government has established offices of the community welfare attaches (CWAs) in Pakistani missions abroad; and at the moment, 26 CWAs are posted abroad for welfare of the overseas Pakistanis.

The secretary informs that South Korea and Kuwait have lifted ban on visa for Pakistani workers, while the government has requested South Korea for increase in quota for Pakistani workers. He says that most of the foreign companies appoint Pakistanis on their own or through licensed employment promoters.

The secretary says that an average Pakistani remits around $1,500 per annum to his family. During the year 2011-12, the overseas Pakistanis remitted $13.186bn as against $11.20bn in the previous year, showing an increase of over 17%. However, the secretary still believes that $4bn to $5bn is coming through hundi.