Draining away talent

We need to find ways to persuade people — especially in critical fields such as medicine — to stay in Pakistan.

Editorial April 24, 2012

It is only normal to expect that government bodies would work for the country and its people. Yet, the federal government’s Overseas Employment Corporation appears to be doing just the opposite by encouraging highly qualified persons, who are needed desperately in the country, to leave it. The body is currently facilitating a team from the health and defence ministries in Saudi Arabia to recruit doctors to be employed at hospitals and other medical centres in that country. Specialists in various fields are being sought and, quite naturally, the Saudis will be looking for the most highly skilled practitioners.

As is already happening because of the ongoing brain drain, Pakistanis are being deprived of the expertise of these skilled individuals. The same process is, of course, taking place in other fields as well. Nurses, scientists, teachers and others are all leaving the country. The very last thing we need is for an official body to encourage them to leave. While senior doctors have expressed concern over the situation, younger doctors say they are eager to work in Saudi Arabia and other countries because of the better salaries and working conditions there. They can, of course, like other professionals hardly be faulted for such sentiments. But at the same time we need to find ways to persuade people — especially in critical fields such as medicine — to stay in Pakistan.

This can only be done by improving salary structures and working conditions. Nurses and young doctors have both been demanding this over recent months. The drifting away of talent is an area we need to give more attention to; ways need to be found to curb this detrimental practice. Certainly, a government body should not be working to send doctors abroad, but perhaps focusing its efforts on the unskilled and semi-skilled labourers, who are perhaps in more dire need for such help. The body ought to assist these people so that a better future can be built for their families so that they may have a chance of escaping the poverty trap as well.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.


Dr Saifur Rehman | 9 years ago | Reply

I appreciate ET for highlighting this issue. There are many factors contributing to brain drain. Brain drain or Human capital flight is a term defined as the movement of highly skilled people from their country to another one where they can earn more money and maintain their academic improvement. In recent years,according to statistics, brain drain has been one of the most crucial elements of developing process in underdeveloped countries. The factors leading to brain drain can be examined in three headings, namely, low salaries and lack of opportunities and necessary equipment. Low salaries and inefficent working conditions can be the first motive that triggers the movement to the countries with better living standarts and facilities. To demonstrate Skilled workers aim to get pleasing salaries in return for their labour but the working conditions in their homeland don't fulfill their wishes. Therefore, those workers prefer to move another country in order to have better living conditions with high salaries. In developed countries,researchers are provided with funds and necessary equipment to carry out study, which can be another motive that attracts those deprived of these opportunities. Most scientists in underdeveloped countries, do not possess laboratory facilities and researchers can not get sufficient funds.Therefore,when deeloped countries offer these facilities,researhers and scientists naturally prefer to migrate to these countries. As a conclusion,Brain drain occurs because the individuals who aim at continuing their studies are in serach of better conditions and more support in academic studies. It is my contention that underdeveloped countries should support their skilled forces and researchers via providing with funds and necessary equipment.

Amjad | 9 years ago | Reply

@Usman Shahid: I don't think that the issue is whether these doctors will be treated like second class citizens in Saudi Arabia. We all know that. The real issue is that there are far too many doctors in Pakistan - every city has several medical schools and there are not enough jobs for doctors who want to be paid a lot when the local market cannot support it. It's good that the surplus doctors go work in Saudia and make some money because eventually they will come back to Pakistan since no one wants to live in Saudia very long.

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