Since 1971 to 2013, more than 7 million Pakistanis have moved abroad for employment through the Bureau of Emigration. Out of this total manpower exports about 94% Pakistanis have proceeded to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries, 80 % of Pakistani migrant workers are located in just two countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Migration from Pakistan peaked in 2012 when 628,452 left the country. During the 2008-13 period, more than 50% of total emigrants from Pakistan originated from the Province of Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (28%), and Sindh at (8%). The Dubai 2020 expo, the Qatar 2022 World Cup and the planned massive construction projects in Saudi Arabia is likely to continue to increase the demand for Pakistan migrant workers particularly in construction but also other sectors. In terms of professions, during 2008-13, of all emigrants from Pakistan 1.9% were highly qualified, 0.8% highly skilled, 42.3 % skilled, 16.5% semi-skilled and 38.5% un-skilled.
While labour migration generates substantial benefits for countries of origin and destination it also creates a range of problems. Abuse of migrant workers during recruitment and employment is a common, well documented issue. Women face barriers in finding overseas employment, and female migrant domestic workers are among the most vulnerable to abuses.
The South Asia labour migration governance project aims to promote the management of labour migration from India, Nepal and Pakistan to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), ensure effective protection of the rights of vulnerable migrant workers, enhance the development impact of labour migration and reduce unregulated migration.
The project aims to promote the management of labour migration from South Asia, to ensure effective protection of the rights of vulnerable migrant workers, enhance the development impact of labour migration and reduce irregular flows. This will be achieved through
- Providing reliable information on overseas employment opportunities and building the capacity to match qualified job seekers with foreign employers.
- Reducing migration costs and abuses and increasing the protection of migrant workers in countries of origin and destination by improving recruitment services.
- Enhancing training and the portability of skills for outgoing and returning migrant worker.
- Generation of labour market information; the South Asia-GCC Employment Information Portal is established and linked with migrant resource centres and job centres in countries of origin. Access is created to enhance access to accurate and timely information on job opportunities, employment terms and conditions, and skills requirements. Studies conducted and regular updates provided on the demand for labour and the required skills in specific sectors and occupations in GCC.
- Promotion of safe migration: Improve pre-departure orientation programmes and delivery mechanisms to meet the specific needs of female migrant workers.
- Improvement of recruitment services: Monitor and report on recruitment costs, develop a rating mechanism, support complaints mechanisms, develop a blueprint for reforms, and launch initiatives (in domestic work and construction) to reduce levels of intervention and costs.
- Protection in employment: Introduce appropriate e-governance tools and measures to support more effective workplace inspection and complaints’ handling mechanisms. Work with embassies, trade unions and civil society organizations to improve services related to information sharing, counselling, dispute resolution and legal advice.
- Improvement of training and portability of skills: Develop recommendations and roadmaps for training and education programmes that meet the requirements for jobs in construction, hospitality and technical trades. Identify and build the capacity of skills-testing sites. Issue ‘skills passports’ for returnees.
- Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development,
- NAVTTC, Provincial TEVTAs
- Labour Departments, workers’ and employers’ organizations
- Private recruitment agencies
- Migrant associations
- Diaspora organizations
- Micro-finance institutions
- Research institutions
Numan is one of the thousands of Pakistanis that seek employment abroad. Bamboozled earlier by fraudulent agents, Numan was able to ease his process of migration when he learnt about MRC’s at a job expo. With the help of the MRC’s, which are located near public transport stations for ease of access, potential migrants have a higher chance of reaching their desired stations safely. To ensure uninterrupted access, The Ministry of overseas Pakistanis has launched an online complaint center where the MRC staff can promptly address the concerns of potential migrants. According to Numan, “I regret I hadn’t heard of them [MRC’s] before, or I’d have come to them and not gone through a fraudulent agent which caused so much tension”.