Pakistan's HR opts for abroad - Insaf Blog by Sarah Ahmad | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

Brain drain means migration of highly skilled, intellectual and technical forces to foreign lands.


Brain drain is becoming a very serious issue for Pakistan. It is reported that in 2013, 2.7 million Pakistanis had left the country in the preceding five years to find better work opportunities. This is an alarming condition as Pakistan is losing its human capital rapidly which directly impacts the development of our economy. Government of Pakistan must be focused and should take suitable steps in this regard like attracting the individuals offering them high salaries and better lifestyle in order to reverse brain drain in Pakistan.

According to a survey of Gallup-Pakistan, more than two-thirds of Pakistan’s adult population wants to go abroad for work and half of it has no desire to return. A similar survey was carried out in 1984, according to which only 17% Pakistanis had expressed their desire to settle abroad. The situation has grown worse.

An example is of the Eighteen-year-old Sumail Hassan Syed from Karachi who made history for Pakistan after moving to the United States when he helped his team, Evil Geniuses’, claim the Defense of the Ancient 2 (Dota 2) Asian championship in China.

Another example is of the first visual effects artist in Hollywood, Muqeem Khan. Muqeem recalls landing a job at giant entertainment film company, Walt Disney Pictures straight-out-of-school and how it shaped his future.

“I was exploring job opportunities in 1996 when I was told that Walt Disney Pictures was looking for creative artists for their film George Of The Jungle. I applied for the position and got hired,” he said.

Mir Zafar Ali, who is a Pakistani movie visual effects artist. He is the first Pakistani to have been connected with an Academy Award-winner for Best Visual Effects. After completing his education in Karachi and working there for 2 years, he moved to Hollywood to work on his first project: the movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow” and this was the start to his journey to success.


The brain drain has been on the rise in Pakistan for the past two decades as more graduates opt to look towards a financially secure and comfortable lifestyle in other parts of the world. UNESCO claims that the highly skilled migration rate of Pakistan has increased more than 60 percent from 1992 to 2000, which is an indicator of the alarming magnitude of the brain drain in the country.

As per the statistics released by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, around 2.765 million citizens, including 31,607 from Balochistan, have proceeded abroad for employment opportunities over the last five years.

According to the figures from January 2008 to September 2013, selection of workers was prerogative of foreign employers, which was based on the criterion “right person for the right job”.

In another report issued earlier, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis had stated that around 5.873 million Pakistanis had migrated during the last two decades.

There may be different reasons, but Pakistan will lose human resource if the brain drain continues. The top six destinations are Saudi Arabia, UAE, USA, the UK, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) and EU countries, with Saudi Arabia topping the list.

Overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to $18.4 billion in 2014-15, which shows a year-on-year increase of 16.5 percent, according to a data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Remittances amounted to $15.8 billion in the preceding fiscal year. Pakistanis based in foreign countries sent home $1.8 billion in June, which is 9.5% higher than the remittances received in the preceding month of May.

Remittances from Saudi Arabia were the largest in 2014-15. They amounted to over $5.6 billion in July-June, 19% more than the preceding 12 months.

The remittances received in July-June from United Arab Emirates (UAE) increased by 35.3% to $4.2 billion on a year-on-year basis.

According to a survey of Gallup-Pakistan carried out in 2000, more than two-third of Pakistan’s adult population wants to go abroad for work, while half of them have no desire to return. A similar survey was carried out in 1984, and only 17% Pakistanis had reported their eager to settle abroad. The situation has only grown worse since.

The fact is that this trend means that Pakistan is losing out on more and more of its developed and skilled human capital than ever before.

Young graduates are valuable assets that no country can afford to lose. Apart from causing a reduction in the number of bright residents, it directly impacts the economic development of a country and this outflow of qualified and skilled workers from a country results in the phenomenon widely known as ‘Brain Drain’, referring to the loss of the intellectual strength of a society.

What is most discerning is that the Brain Drain is on the rise in Pakistan over the past two decades as more graduates opt to look towards a financially secure and comfortable lifestyle in another part of the world. UNESCO claims that the highly skilled migration rate of Pakistan increased by more than 60% from 1992 to 2000, which is an indicator of the alarming magnitude of brain drain in the country.

Who among us wouldn’t take the chance to go abroad and get settled? Disillusionment after graduation, lack of opportunities and rampant corruption ends up making even the most patriotic among us long for the stability offered by developed countries. Once something each developing country routinely has to deal with, the matter has now become a significant issue for Pakistan with potentially disastrous consequences if left unchecked.

Having understood that, it is important to identify the factors which are causing this phenomenon to occur.

In case of Pakistan, these causes are rooted in the unequal status of economic development of the emigration and immigration countries. Students are pushed back by lack of job opportunities, unsatisfactory salaries, lack of respect for the professionals, low job satisfaction, political instability, high terrorism rate, high bureaucratic control, unfair merit system, and insecurity of life.

They are automatically, subconsciously trained to be attracted by the alternative that migration offers which includes high salaries, bright career, economic, social and other intercultural benefits.

This coupled with the relaxation of immigration policies for high skilled workers by the United Kingdom, Unites States of America, Australia, Germany and other developed nations, has resulted in easy shifting out for the young graduates to the so-called lands of opportunities.

What’s Being Done to Reverse Brain Drain in Pakistan?

There are a number of programs already in place to combat the issue of brain drain in Pakistan, however, they need strengthening and the nation requires heartened efforts for not just progress, but also sustainability.

The HEC, along with numerous private institutions like LUMS, IBA, NUST etc., have hired foreign faculty to bring back those competent graduates who have gained skills and expertise from the foreign land to transfer their strength to Pakistan, hence converting the brain drain into gain for the country.

Attracting the individuals with high salaries, opportunities for growth, better lifestyle and economic conditions, more recreational opportunities, less restrictions and taxations, educational benefits, provision of research facilities, secure working environment and effective labor laws, and other development opportunities are some ways to reverse brain drain in Pakistan.

The question is if the government, education institutions and responsible authorities are considering the magnitude of the damage ‘brain drain’ is bringing to Pakistan and if the actions that are required to manage and decrease this trend is even a priority for decision makers.

Making things better for current grads in much easier and cost-effective compared to attracting them when they are well settled abroad so immediate action is needed and we implore the government to make it a priority task.