Greener pastures.

A few weeks ago, a news report gave the figure of Pakistanis migrating abroad in 2022 for work-related purposes as 765,000. The bulk of these were in blue-collar occupations, but it seems a significant number of educated and credentialed workers have also decided to seek their economic fortunes elsewhere. Given what one hears anecdotally, the figures could very well be higher than what's being reported, which explains part of the alarm around this particular issue.

Over a period of 13 years, approximately 70 per cent of those still active in the labour market from my college graduating class have moved abroad, with a large number moving in the last five years. Canada's liberal immigration policy of the last decade, which allowed skilled, English-fluent workers to obtain residency sans employment sponsorship, has been acutely effective in encouraging upper-middle and upper-class credentialed Pakistanis to move abroad.

There is nothing unique about this. Economic migration is a near-universal phenomenon, especially in developing countries. Labour shortages abroad coupled with weak domestic opportunities combine to create a condition where it's viable for a section of workers to move in search of higher wages.

Additionally, encouraging workers to migrate remains a varyingly stated and unstated plank of Pakistan's development strategy since the 1970s. Temporary gulf migrations among blue-collar workers form the bulk of outward migration and they've been instrumental in shoring up consumption and inducing some form of social mobility among low and middle-income families. The comparatively better social and economic development of the GT Road belt, from the Peshawar Valley to Central Punjab is, in part, an outcome of Gulf-based remittances.

All the intangibles which may otherwise discourage people from moving abroad - family, sense of community, cultural comfort - are being rendered insufficient.

In recent years, despondent conversations around migration tend to focus more on its inevitability, given the economic stagnation in Pakistan. And here the focus is usually on migration among the relatively better off. For large swathes of the college-educated upper middle class, moving abroad has become a singular ambition, in part encouraged by the effect of seeing peers and seniors create comfortable lives abroad. Nearly every doctor, engineer, computer scientist, or business/corporate professional one speaks to has at least thought about migrating...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT