Soaring inflation fuels a wave of unprecedented migration

ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan’s economic woes, espe­cially soaring inflation, have trig­gered a wave of unprecedented migration, forcing numerous families with the agonizing choice of leaving their homeland for the promise of a better future.

This migration, characterized by its sheer scale and despera­tion, reflects a collective yearn­ing for survival and a glimmer of hope to address high cost of living. From skilled profession­als to daily-wage labourers, each person opting to leave the coun­try carries a story of shattered dreams and the unrelenting quest for a sustainable livelihood. Recent statistics shared by the National Database and Registra­tion Authority (NADRA) paint a sobering picture. Over the span of five working days, more than two hundred thousand people apply for visas, while over half a million have bid farewell to their home­land in the past six months alone. The harsh reality of a constrained job market, often restricted by networks of privilege, has ignited frustration among the educated youth. “I deserve recognition for my abilities, not for the connec­tions I possess,” voiced Taimur Furqan, a graduate from the Na­tional Defence University, who is now seeking opportunities over­seas in pursuit of his future which he sees bleak in his country,

Dr. Sajid Amin, an economist, shed light on the dire situation, noting that a fragile economy often confines youth to under­paid, and uninspiring jobs. This predicament poses even graver challenges for working women and the salaried class, as these low-quality jobs disproportion­ately impact these groups.

“The convergence of these dis­tressing factors leads to a trou­bling reality: mass migration, and worse, illegal migration. When hopes are dashed and potential goes unrealized, escaping be­comes a necessity. This isn’t just for the educated elite; it’s also im­pacting the lower socioeconomic strata. Economic and political un­certainties from the last two de­cades continue to take their toll”, Sajid observed. Amid the eco-political uncertainty, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been grappling with an increas­ing number of fake visa agents, human smugglers, and human traffickers. Over the last few years, the agency has made thou­sands of arrests, thwarting illegal migrations and deporting many from European shores. As one FIA official lamented, “While we are working diligently to counter these cases, the unfortunate real­ity is that if our economic crisis persists, these numbers might surge.” As Komal Naqvi, a gradu­ate from COMSATS University, succinctly put it, “Even the sim­plest joys turn bitter when sepa­rated from family,” a sentiment she shares from her position working in Italy since May 2023.

Faizan Sheikh, a seasoned consultant with over 25 years of experience, has revealed a significant shift in his clientele. He has noticed a substantial in­crease in the number of individu­als visiting his office in a mere six months, a change he hadn’t wit­nessed over the past decade.

In his observation, Sheikh points towards the influence of social media in Western coun­tries, which has been instrumen­tal in generating job opportuni­ties for the overseas that require physical presence. Interestingly, citizens of developed nations are increasingly opting for online work, a practice that demands fewer resources while yield­ing higher earnings. Addition­ally, Sheikh attributes the current wave of emigration to the favor­able success rates among appli­cants. He highlights the popu­larity of work visas for Canada, study programs in the UK, and job-seeking opportunities in Germany. These factors under­score the dynamic forces shap­ing the decisions of those seeking greener pastures overseas. For those struggling to meet even basic needs, stability becomes the ultimate goal, regardless of the means. Arbaz Rabab Khan, a private visa agent, noted that a significant number of visa appli­cants come from lower-income backgrounds. Driven by chal­lenging conditions at home, the choice between survival there and relocation abroad, even at a high cost, becomes a torment. Visa applications have notably surged over the last two years, he shared. Majority of the politicians from all political parties believe and claim that Pakistan’s bleak economic landscape doesn’t op­erate in isolation; it is inextrica­bly linked to the nation’s political instability. This pairing, they say, creates a potent recipe for disas­ter. With a crippled economy, an uncertain market, diminishing job security, and compounded by political turmoil, Pakistan may face the alarming threat of losing its skilled workforce to foreign shores in near future. Address­ing Pakistani immigration influx necessitates a holistic strategy carrying sustainable economic policies, along with job creation, political stability, and educa­tional enhancement as pivotal to retain talent and create a promis­ing future within the country.

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