For greener pastures

Editorial June 20, 2024


Economic upheaval and security concerns are the main contributors to the unprecedented increase in the pace of the brain drain confronting Pakistan. The government’s Economic Survey 2023-24 reports that emigration increased by a staggering 119%, as “highly skilled” workers continued to move abroad, not just for greener pastures, but in many cases, just for some semblance of stability. It is unsurprising that “highly qualified” workers also moved abroad at an increasing rate. Doctors, engineers and other highly educated individuals can demand significantly higher salaries under better working conditions. The appeal of staying home and building one’s own country has taken a massive hit due to concerns over security and political instability, some of which are interconnected due to a mixture of facts and political propaganda.

But despite the rise in emigration, competition for highly-skilled jobs in Pakistan remains cut throat, as the floundering economy has not been able to generate enough employment opportunities for domestic graduates. This has resulted in a situation where, despite a significant increase in services sector employment, many academically strong youngsters cannot, and will not, find work in Pakistan. Under 24s and the 25-34 age groups represent the highest unemployment rates in Pakistan, again underscoring the problem.

Over 13.5 million skilled and unskilled Pakistanis are legally working abroad, about 96% of whom are based in GCC countries. And while on the one hand, these people contribute significantly to the economy through remittances, their presence in the Middle East is driven by successive governments’ failure. Many unskilled workers in the Middle East live and work in terrible conditions because staying in Pakistan may have led to their children starving. We are now at the point where even skilled workers are making decisions based on the same factors. For many people, seeking employment abroad is now a compulsion, not a choice, and without visible improvements in the economy, the trend will only worsen.


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