Oct 08 - 21, 2007

In response to rapid globalization, economic turn over and inducement for better prospects last decade has witnessed an accelerated pace of international mobility of highly skilled and talented people. Highest quality workforce rejects staying in their native places for better earning, broader scope and brighter opportunities ahead. This population shift is mainly directed from developing to developed countries. Gradual outflow of this top rated manpower from the country leads to a vacuum in all sectors of society and dearth of productivity due to remainder less competent people. This phenomenon, in the terminology of development economics refers to "Brain Drain". Brain drain is the international transfer of resources in the form of human capital i.e., the migration of relatively highly educated individuals from the developing to developed countries.

Practically this migration of human capital can be observed amongst doctors, scientists, educationists, engineers, executives, and other professionals across frontiers. All these people may tend to endow a nation with a sound knowledge base and hope for well organized and civilized society. Departure of this ultimately valuable resource of the country gives rise to an irretrievable and long lasting loss to the nation. Irony of the situation is that these Third World countries are losing people which are the most inevitable for them. However as they are moving across borders legally, so no obligations can be inflicted to stop them. This gradual move and incessant loss can be a major impediment in the economic progress of Third World Nations as this perverse brain drain is on a permanent basis and great majority of migrants move for good.

Quality of work force is more important than the quantity to increase output and efficiency. This fact is proven and supported by tremendous amount of research undertaken in a multitude of countries with diverse circumstances in different parts of the world. A glimpse into socio economic condition of countries delineate that no country with educated and technically trained human resource is poor and no country with a predominantly illiterate, untrained human resource is rich. Human resource is undoubtedly vital and more decisive factor for a country's fate than its natural resources. If we take the example of Japan into consideration, we realize that they have almost no mineral or energy resources but have high economic productivity because of highly literate, trained and an efficient workforce. Rapid progress of the East Asian countries is largely attributed to their excellent system of education.

It is a bitter reality that in Pakistan governments have never been giving due attention to education and training of people. This ruthless neglect of the authorities and deployment of inadequate resources towards human resource development has left Pakistan lagging behind many other nations of the same geographic region. According to official sources, the current literacy rate in Pakistan is 51.6 per cent where female literacy rate is 39 per cent while that of male is 64. It means that two women out of every three and one man out of every three men are illiterate. The expenditure on education as percentage of the GDP is 4% which is much below than what it actually deserves.


Economic factor is the major persuasion for people to leave their country but it is not the sole issue. A lot other push and pull factors are also involved. Examples of push factors include low remuneration, poor working conditions, low job satisfaction, lack of professional development and career opportunities and political and ethnic problems including civil strife and poor security. Pull factors are caused by increased demand for professionals in developed countries and include attractive remuneration, new career and personal development prospects and active recruitment by those countries. The common use of a professional language such as English and similarities in professional training and systems arising from the colonial experience of African countries are also thought to enhance the pull factors.


Industrialized countries like United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia devise immigration policies which aim to entice high quality science and technology personnel from other countries. Since 1984, Australia's immigration policy had privileged skilled workers, with the candidates selected according to their prospective "contribution to the Australian economy". Canadian immigration policy follows along similar lines, resulting in an increasing share of highly educated people among the immigrants selected; for example, in 1997, 50,000 professional specialists and entrepreneurs immigrated to Canada throughout the world with 75,000 additional family members, representing 58 per cent of the total immigration. Now after almost a decade this number has doubled.

In the US, since the Immigration Act of 1990 - followed by the American Competitiveness and Work Force Improvement Act of 1998 the emphasis has been on the selection of highly skilled workers through a system of quotas favoring candidates with academic degrees or specific professional skills. For the latter category, the annual number of visas issued for highly skilled professionals (H-1B visas) increased from 48,000 in 1989 to 116,000 in 1999, the totality of this increase being due to immigration from developing countries, especially India.


In any job and profession economic well being is the core rationale for human being. Therefore most tempting and compelling reason of brain drain is the pecuniary interests of highly educated professionals. If in home country qualified and talented personnel are under-paid and employed in sub standard infrastructure they will be obviously bent towards better job context and content. In search of a reward for their services they of course move to other countries where they get recognition, respect and sense of accomplishment.

The value placed for a scientist with an advanced level degree in Pakistan is Grade 17, with a salary that is even insufficient to meet the basic requirements of a family. Grabbing the opportunity, the advanced countries take away these people by offering them lucrative incentives.


An important determinant of brain drain in developing countries is non-availability of requisite equipment and other resources required for research. This problem mainly causes departure of scientists and technology experts from the country. Recipient countries offer them lucrative resources and necessary equipment to conduct research or update technology. These things facilitate experimentation and creative process. Unfortunately, the funds allocated for this purpose in developing countries are very meager, which often leads to the rusting of intellect. According to UNESCO reports there prevail enormous disparities in the distribution of resources for science and technology, between developed economies and developing countries' GDPs.


Existing social set up does not extend suitable job opportunities and slots to the young graduates. Unemployment imparts despondency and hopelessness amongst these talented people and they start considering better prospects ahead.

The promotion process in developing countries is also not prompt. It takes years for an employee to jump from one cadre to another. There is no well defined career ladder which impedes and virtually ceases the growth of workforce. Mutilation of merit is rampant in all departments. Incompetent and incapable people bypass the deserving ones pushing them into a state of frustration and disappointment.


At the moment, Pakistan is also in the clutches of increasingly widening sphere of brain drain victim nations. The migration of professionals to foreign countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has increased considerably in recent years. Fresh graduates and educated skilled Pakistanis, particularly engineers, doctors, IT experts, scientists and other professionals have either left the country or are seeking for the best opening to do so. This state of affairs hampers the government from achieving its proposed targets. To date, no serious efforts have been made to avert this disastrous trend.

According to IMF, the migration rate (from Pakistan to the OECD countries) of individuals with a tertiary education is more than seven per cent, while for India it is about 2.7 per cent; these figures, however, fail to take into account the sizable flow of professionals from the subcontinent to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates and therefore overlook an important part of the brain drain from the relevant source countries.

Other credible research sources have confirmed that not only university graduates and qualified professionals want to leave the country but unskilled and partially trained people are also looking for better slot abroad to improve their standard of living. The percentage of researchers and scientists, who opted for working in foreign companies, is higher in the genetics wing of institutions of the agriculture department. In some departments of agriculture research institutes, over 30 per cent seats are vacant, mainly due to the fact that the researchers left the country for better opportunities.

An apparently positive aspect of relocation of people in developed countries is the upsurge in foreign remittances which as a consequence are building up FX reserves. But the money they are sending is no substitute of the services they are rendering to speed up the economic scientific and technological development. Had these professional been not migrated they would have become a source of much more revenue generation for Pakistan.

In Pakistan's case, professionals who are going abroad are mostly government servants and belong to the scientific community. These are the people who complain about the general attitude of society towards professionals, particularly scientists.


The implications of the brain drain phenomenon are disastrous. It originates loss of strategic manpower from important areas. This outflow disintegrates the system and creates dire dislocations. It precariously retards skill formation and absorbs all the money invested in education and training without yielding any productivity. Shrinkage of skilled workforce and potentially valuable human capital impinges on all sections and subsections of human resource management i.e. education, research & training, infrastructure building, creative talent, present and future technology and the entire intellectual background of a country and creates a growth retarding hostile response effect.

Trained and skilled people are already a very scant resource for poor countries. Loss of this limited intellect to the industrial world leads to a set back of developmental process. Later on, many of them end up in importing expensive consultants from abroad. This vicious circle of events sometimes represents a double loss. An economy spends its precious resources to educate and train its people. Losing them to developed countries is a form of reverse foreign assistance, from resource-poor to resource-rich countries.

Another important implication of the brain drain is that investment in education in a developing country may not lead to faster economic growth if a large number of its highly educated people leave the country. Also, efforts to reduce specific skill shortages through improved educational opportunities may be largely futile unless measures are taken to offset existing incentives for highly educated people to emigrate.


Pakistan is required to be serious about curtailing its alarming pace of brain drain, it must equip the system with fairness, and performance based rewards and resources to discontinue any more dropping out of human capital. Following measures are particularly important in this regard:

1. Competitive job opportunities that properly compensate workers based on their skills and talents.

2. Proper infrastructure be provided for research and development.

3. Transparency in system of merit be instilled, otherwise, this disastrous situation will continue to take its toll on the economic well being of the country and skilled labor will continue to move to countries where benefits and opportunities are plentiful.