Some of the critics raise serious concerns that Pakistan is suffering substantially due to brain drain. However, the other point of view is that Pakistanis working abroad are a major source of foreign exchange for the country. At an average, Pakistanis working abroad send more than US$ one billion per month and the amount has increased consistently. Had this source of foreign exchange not there, Pakistan would have faced serious balance of payment crisis. Therefore, it is necessary to dispassionately examine the pros and cons of Pakistani going abroad in search of employment.
To begin with, let us first of all examine the reasons Pakistanis are forced to go abroad, the largest reasons being fewer employment opportunities and poor remuneration. Since job opportunities are few, employers are able to exploit the employees. First of there is gender discrimination; female workers are hired because they often consent to work at lower remuneration. It is a common observation that private schools employ larger number of female teachers. There are two categories of females: 1) those who work to complement the income of male members of the family to ensure better education for their children and/or improve the living standards of their family and 2) unmarried females who wish to earn to meet their expenses rather than asking for money from their fathers and brothers. As they are not the sole earning member of the family, they accept the jobs at lower remuneration.
It is known to all that the federal and provincial governments spend minuscule amounts on education. Though, there has been a mushroom growth of private schools, most of families can’t afford to send their children to these schools, charging exorbitantly high fees. A disgruntled man said, “My father worked in a government office. Since probability of my getting a government job was very low due to ‘quota regime’ followed in Sindh province, he sent me to good educational institute, paid higher fees and sacrificed many of his wishes. I am also doing the same in a hope that my children may get good job and lead a better life. My children are making efforts to get jobs abroad, where they could get better remuneration. I fear that if they get jobs abroad when I and my wife get old, we may have money but will miss them very badly”.
A substantial percentage of remittances are sent by Pakistanis working in the Middle East. Most of these workers are unskilled or semi-skilled and work on construction sites. They get a chance to come to Pakistan in one or two years, when they come home face great disappointments. They find out their children are not giving proper attention to education and other family members are spending lavishly, having no realization how hardly father/husband earn the money.
A dumper driver who worked in Saudi Arabia for more than quarter of century told this story, “Whenever I talked to my wife about coming back to Pakistan, she requested to stay there for a few more years till the children complete their education. When I ultimately arrived in Pakistan my family didn’t like this at all. In fact they thought I was a misfit in the family and they preferred to stay away from me and looked like an alien in my own family”.
Doctors are often offered good remuneration both in the Middle East and North America. Though, getting a job is not easy, but many of the Pakistanis make fast progress because of their dedication and hard work. However, after living there for a long time, they are not even ready to think about coming back to their home towns because they could not get the corresponding remuneration in Pakistan. A doctor who worked in Saudi Arabia told a pathetic story, “I was hired to work in a hospital in Jeddah but when I reached their, it was a small town about 200 kilometers away from Jeddah. My Kafeel (job provider) took away my passport and I was not allowed to return to Pakistan for three years. During this period my family was in Pakistan and when three of near and dear faced terminal illness/died I was not allowed to go to Pakistan”.
Another doctor recently returning from the United States had a touching story to tell, “I was working for a reputed government hospital in Pakistan and also receiving good remuneration. When I applied for a job in the US, I was offered an amazingly high salary and I was prompt in accepting the offer. Initially, I was deputed at a hospital offering extremely good care to the old. Later on, I was transferred to an ‘intensive care’ unit where aids patients were kept. After a while I got jittery and wanted to leave the job but the lust for huge remuneration made me stay there. The hospital administration took good care of me but one day I decided to come back to Pakistan. Having worked for a prestigious hospital in the US helped me in getting a good job in Pakistan, but only I know that under what circumstances I had lived there”.
When there was ‘Information Technology’ boom in the US, a lot of Pakistanis were employed. However, after 9/11 most of them were forced to leave the jobs on one or the other pretext. A software engineer who endured this difficult time said, “Surviving this difficult time was not easy due to the extensive scrutiny and only those emerged successful who had no dubious record. All the dedicated and hard workers were ultimately rewarded. My advice to all the Pakistanis is that if they are serious in working abroad, they should remain law abiding citizens and stay away from those who would tempt them to join groups/organizations involved in activities not appreciated by the US administration”.