The labour diaspora of Pakistani workers persists due to a dearth of economic opportunities. The current outflow of Pakistani workers is more striking than before. In 2022, the total number of migrants was 832,339. However, in the first seven months of the current year, it has stretched 450,110. It is expected to reach an all-time high, surpassing one million.
The importance of external migration arises from the remittances that are associated with it. Remittances contribute to the foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan. Remittance is the second-largest source of foreign reserves, with only a marginal difference compared to the exports of goods. The level of remittances for FY23 was $27 billion, representing a decrease of $4.25 billion compared to the previous year. Pakistan is ranked sixth among the top countries receiving remittances.
The current surge of migration can be attributed to the challenge of brain drain, which refers to the emigration of highly trained or qualified individuals from a specific country. According to the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, there has been a 30% increase in the migration of highly qualified individuals during the first seven months of this year compared to the same period in the previous year. Surprisingly, it has been depicting an almost downward trend since 2015. The count of highly skilled migrants has increased to 26,405 for the first seven months, 27 percent higher than the annual count in 2022. It is expected that the migration of highly skilled migrants will increase by over twofold if this momentum continues at its current pace. Similarly, other occupational groups categorised as skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled are also showing an upward trajectory.
Brain drain has significant adverse consequences at various levels, including the country, organisation, and industry. It is also a potential source of the dearth of human capital, which can lead to a deceleration in the development process. It also restricts the supply of professionals, most of whom fall into the high-income bracket, thereby reducing tax revenue. Lower tax revenue constrains the supply of better infrastructure and hampers public service delivery. The outflow of professionals is often linked to decreased consumer spending within the country, which can ultimately result in a deflationary gap. This situation may then prompt firms to downsize their production and employment levels.
Furthermore, professionals who work overseas create a significant void that needs to be filled, potentially resulting in a shortage of adequately qualified individuals available for replacement. This, in turn, incurs additional costs for the organisation in terms of finding suitable replacements.
Notably, 1638 IT experts and 4705 associated engineers have left Pakistan within the first seven months. The adverse consequences on the development of IT in Pakistan and its exports are noticeable. Vision 2025 of Pakistan prioritises the importance of a knowledge economy in its pursuit of becoming one of the largest 25 economies in the world and achieving upper middle-income country status. The migration of high-net-worth individuals seeking citizenship through investment significantly impacts Pakistan’s investment landscape. This phenomenon results in reduced available investment, particularly in the realm of entrepreneurial activities. As a result, this trend’s consequences are apparent in increased unemployment rates and a slowdown in economic growth prospects.
The current brain drain is attributed to factors such as the prevalence of economic and political instability, among others. Economic stability relies on political stability. The political instability has shaped an uncertain situation affecting individuals’ decision-making and macroeconomic indicators. Hence, it is evident that any action taken to mitigate political instability can significantly impact economic stability.
It is worth noting that a government with greater political capital is crucial in addressing this issue and improving future prospects. Moreover, it is imperative to implement a raft of comprehensive set of long-term policy measures in order to enhance prospects and opportunities in Pakistan. This will help streamline the dispersion of highly qualified and skilled individuals within the diaspora.