By Hassan Abbas
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain said on Wednesday that overseas Pakistanis are playing an important role in improving the socio-economic indicators of Pakistan through their contribution to the knowledge economy.
He was addressing the launching of “Pakistan Migration Report 2020″ published by Lahore School of Economics Centre on Migration, Remittances and Diaspora (CIMRAD).
Rector LSE Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry was also present on the occasion. He said this potential needs to be realized through technological transfers and building human capital.
Dr Ishrat praised the remarkable efforts of CIMRAD in writing the report and their continued efforts on working on important issues such as international migration.
He commended the report for its in-depth evidence-based research approach, in bringing together the scattered and partial information on overseas migration and remittances in a comprehensive form and in raising important questions for academics, policy-makers and the government.
Dr G M Arif, former joint director Pakistan Institute of Development Studies (PIDE) and an eminent scholar on migration in Pakistan was also present at the event.
He expressed his gratitude to CIMRAD and Lahore School of Economics for publishing the first of its kind comprehensive report on international migration. He recognized the richness of coverage and diversity of the content in the report.
He also acknowledged the valuable contribution of the report in documenting the available data sources on the subject. He raised the issue of lack of coordination between the various public and private institutions and stakeholders in migration related policy-making and the implementation process. He emphasized the need to encourage the Pakistani diaspora to engage in entrepreneurial activities that can help stimulate economic growth in Pakistan.
Director Graduate Institute of Development Studies (GIDS) Dr Rashid Amjad gave an overview on remittances while Coordinator CIMRAD and Professor GIDS Dr Nasra Shah presented an overview of the overseas migration situation in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Migration Report 2020 analyses the flows of overseas migration from Pakistan and the resulting remittances, both of which have a significant impact on the economy of Pakistan especially on employment and labour market, and in providing vital support to the balance of payments situation. In addition, it also documents return migration of Pakistani migrants abroad as well as refugees living in Pakistan returning to their home country, and the flow of irregular migrants from and to Pakistan. Special attention has been given in the report to identifying areas for improving governance of migration and remittances in order to achieve maximum development impact.
According to the report, the expected volume of remittances to Pakistan in 2020 is between $22.8 and $23.3 billion, while in 2021 the expected amount will be $23.9 to $24.4 billion.
Some important recommendations of the report were strengthening of the efforts at enhancing the skill levels of Pakistan’s labour force and its overseas migrants, as more than half of all labor migrants from Pakistan continue to fall in the category of unskilled/semi-skilled workers. The need to evaluate these upskilling efforts has also been highlighted in the report. On the issue of irregular migration from Pakistan that seems to have increased in the last few years, the report acknowledges the progress made in terms of identifying, documenting, and curbing some of this irregular migration, but stresses on additional efforts in this regard to identify the routes and intermediaries that enable such migration to exist and continue.
In terms of flow of remittances to Pakistan, despite the increasing amount, the country’s share within South Asia and the low-and middle-income countries has been decreasing due to the fall in deployment of Pakistani migrant workers abroad.
Moreover, owing to the high costs of sending remittances through formal channels and the additional verification requirements by banking institutions in line with the recommendations of FATF, the use of informal channels seems to be increasing. The report suggests a more direct role to be assumed by the government to capitalize on the emerging opportunities of employment in countries such as Malaysia and Japan and continuing of its efforts towards reducing the costs and increasing the convenience of receipt of remittance by migrant families through official means rather than “Hundi” and “Hawala”.