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Out Migration Back to Peak Levels

Over 850,000 workers seek jobs abroad in 2023

The Pakistan Migration Report 2024, third in the series published biennially by the Centre on Migration, Remittances and Diaspora (CIMRAD), Lahore School of Economics, was launched on June 11, 2024. Ms. Mio Sato, Chief of Mission, IOM Pakistan was the Chief Guest at the launch event. The ceremony was held at Lahore School of Economics, Burki campus. Dr Shahid Amjad chaudhry, Rector Lahore School of Economics opened the proceedings of the ceremony.

The 2024 report reveals that the international out migration numbers have returned to pre-Covid peak levels. The outward migration plummeted from 625,000 in 2019 to less than 300,000 during 2021, but surged to 862,000 by 2023 as the pandemic's effects waned. A significant portion of workers continue to migrate to Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia retaining its position as the top destination, attracting half of all migrants. However, the report notes that around half of Pakistani labor migrants are still categorized as low-skilled or unskilled, despite a shrinking demand for such workers in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, the UAE experienced, in the post Covid period, a notable increase in migrant inflows, rising to 27%. The report also points out low level of women representation in the international labour force migration as just 0.94% of the total.

Contrary to the media hype of the unprecedented “brain drain”, the report cautions that the exodus of the highly skilled and the highly qualified professionals is a misinterpretation of the official data. The percentage of highly qualified/skilled out-migrants has remained less than 10 % of all registered migrants for most of Pakistan’s migration history since 1971.

Furthermore, irregular migration remains a concern, especially in Europe in 2022, making Pakistan one of the top ten nationalities entering Europe illegally. Only 15% of Pakistani asylum applications succeed, and 14.3% of repatriation orders were executed in 2021.

According to the report, the trend in officially recorded remittance inflows contradicts those of migration, signifying the use of unofficial channels to send money. The primary factor influencing the remitter’s choice of medium was the exchange rate gap between the official and market rate. By January 2023, the gap was estimated to be around 4 percent which meant that families of remitters using unofficial channels were receiving a higher PKR amount. This was reflected in the 12.6 percent decline in remittances during 2022-2023. The trend in 2023-2024 (July-May) has remained passive. The report recommends that given the importance of remittances as a key source of foreign exchange providing the necessary buffer against the country’s persistent trade deficit, they merit due consideration in exchange rate policy decisions.

The report also discusses the role of Roshan Digital Account (RDA) in leveraging diaspora savings for mobilizing investment in the country. The repatriated amount from these accounts as a proportion of total inflows increased from 2.4 in 2020-2021 to 37.7 percent 2022-2023 due to uncertain macroeconomic and political situation in the country. However, the trend seems to be improving in 2023-2024; during first three quarters from July 2023 till March 2024 the net inflows have exceeded preceding year’s inflows. But the share of investments in Naya Pakistan Certificates, Roshan Equity and other government securities, real estate and mutual funds remains small in the total inflows, indicating that an enormous potential remains to tap the savings of Pakistani diaspora.

Ms. Mio Sato, pointed the need of expanding and strengthening regular pathways of migration that are orderly safe and dignified. To achieve this, she discussed three key aspects i.e., enhancing government technical capacity, aligning migrants skills with market demands through skill training programmes, raising awareness about opportunities and risks at all stages of migration, from pre-departure to arrival, stay, return and reintegration. She further emphasized on adoption of people-centred and evidence-based solutions. She also offered an optimistic perspective on migration, seeing it as a pathway for human development and economic growth for both home and host countries through the blending of diverse cultures and perspectives.

Dr. G. M. Arif, Ex. Joint Director, PIDE and an internationally recognised scholar on migration also spoke at the event. While agreeing with the findings of the report on the brain drain issue, Dr. G. M. Arif highlighted the positive impact of migration on domestic labour force in terms of enhanced skillsets which are brought back by the returning migrants mainly from the Gulf countries. He termed it, instead, as a brain-gain.

On the issue of irregular migration from Pakistan, Ms. Raana Rahim, country coordinator, International Centre on Migration Policy Development, spoke about urgent and targeted interventions to mitigate the risks faced by these vulnerable migrants.

Dr. Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, proposed migration as a solution to high population growth rate of Pakistan by training working population in the health and education sectors that are high in demand globally.

Other speakers at the launch ceremony included Dr. Nasra Shah, Coordinator CIMRAD and Professor at GIDS, and Almazia Shahzad, Research & Teaching Fellow at GIDS. Dr. Shah shared the main messages of the report with a focus on migration outflows, exodus of highly qualified professionals and the issue of irregular migration from Pakistan, while Ms Shahzad presented an analysis on remittance inflows and relationship with the macroeconomic situation of the country.

Also at Pakistan Observer, News, Business Recorder

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 6/10/2024 05:28:00 PM,

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