A few weeks ago, the caretaker prime minister’s statement about highly educated Pakistanis who choose to settle abroad raised eyebrows. This statement of PM Kakar came after the tragic news of the sinking of a migrant boat which carried many Pakistanis, in the Mediterranean Sea.
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Unprecedented Brain Drain Of Pakistanis
As the economy of Pakistan gradually turned from bad to worse in the last few years, more people have been leaving the country for a better future.
This exit of Pakistanis from the country has created a low-level panic about the ‘brain drain’.
In the most recent iteration, that fear was underscored by claims of record emigration in 2023 and this time the amount of people leaving the country is qualitatively different, comprising an unprecedentedly large proportion of experts in different fields from whom Pakistan would have benefitted a lot.
Examining Emigration Statistics for 2023
Fortunately, we do not have to take anyone’s word because these are the kinds of claims that can be quantified and for which reasonably authoritative data is available.
The Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) of the Government of Pakistan maintains and publishes detailed data about people leaving the country.
In the first seven months of this year (2023), 450,000 Pakistanis have already left the country for a better future.
If the current rate holds steady, that is projected to bring the number of Pakistanis leaving Pakistan for this year to around 770,000.
That would still be significantly less number of Pakistanis than last year’s 832,000. Even if the rate accelerates and the total comes out above the projected amount, then it would still not be a record. For reference, in 2015 947,000 Pakistanis had left the country.
Pakistan’s Emigration Trends
There is also another factor to consider over here: The number of Pakistanis that left the country in both 2020 and 2021 was the lowest amount of Pakistanis leaving the country since 2006 because COVID-19 travel restrictions had put all travel to a stop, including emigration, to a halt.
After travel restrictions were lifted for Paksitanis in 2021, the number of migrants who were stuck, which must have been sizable, gradually began leaving the country.
With oil prices at highs once again, post-COVID the Gulf economies have been doing very well, and hence because of this a lot of Pakistanis are going there.
Given that more than half of Pakistani migrants move to the Gulf, the 2022 figures should have made a new record for these countries. So much for the total volume of emigrants.
Reasons To Leave
There are many valid reasons for Pakistanis to leave the country – economic opportunities, access to quality education and healthcare, a higher standard of living, freedom from suffocating cultural norms, security, safety from prosecution, personal growth, curiosity about the world we inhabit, the thrill of adventure, or any combination of them.
Benefits Beyond Remittances
The benefits of legal emigration to an individual are well known, but there are also several ways in which it is beneficial to the country they are going to host them, beyond the most obvious one – remittances replenish the receiving country’s foreign currency.
There is also a reduction in unemployment in that country, the transfer and exchange of skills and knowledge in that country, and the international network of expats and the communities that the migrants build in that country.
A law-abiding, well-integrated immigrant is a more powerful ambassador of its home country to its host country than any embassy or consulate can be.
For these reasons, we view emigrants, educated emigrants in particular, as brain circulation instead.
A Call For Change
If this or any future government is truly concerned about the people leaving the country in large amounts, then they need to fix the problems that force the people to leave – tax agriculture, real estate, and other un/undertaxed sectors, collect electricity bills where they have never dared to collect them (but continue supply), start the big task of fixing public schools and hospitals, etc.
The time has come for Pakistani people to work together and work hard to fix this country.