Pakistan’s Brain Drain: Do We Not Know or Do We Not Care?

Posted on April 2, 2008
Filed Under >Irum Sarfaraz, Pakistanis Abroad, Society
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Irum Sarfaraz

The term brain drain was coined by the spokesmen of the Royal Society of London to describe the outflow of scientists and technologists to the United States and Canada in the early 1950s. Since then the term has become synonymous with human capital or the migration of highly educated individuals from the developing, mostly third world countries, to the developed ones.

Over the past few decades, more since Pakistan has been lurched full throttle into economic and political chaos, the phenomenon has become the bane of the society. The number of repining Pakistanis who wish to settle abroad is rising every year and the ones who are actually capable of breaking loose are coincidentally the educated ones, contributing alarmingly to the growing crisis of the Pakistani brain drain. To leave the country and settle abroad has become the zeitgeist of current day Pakistan.

Unfortunately either the government does not realize the severity of the problem or prefers to brush it under the proverbial rug like so many other issues. The migration of the Pakistani professionals to foreign countries, namely, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has increased considerably with young educated and skilled Pakistani such as doctors, IT Experts, scientists and other professional either already gone or planning to leave. The fact that workers from all skill levels are losing or have completely lost faith in the economic future of the country was revealed by the Gallup survey that indicated that even the semi-skilled and unskilled workers want to migrate outside in search of better prospects. 62 percent of the adults who were surveyed expressed the desire to migrate abroad while 38 percent said that they would prefer to settle outside permanently.

It is often thought that the transmittance of funds by the ones who leave the country as a result of brain drain is a good enough substitute for these individuals actually staying in the country and working. But that idea is valid only to a minimal extent as there can be no substitute for services these professionals could be rendering the country by staying within the borders and adding to a far rapid economic, scientific and technological development of the country. Again, that can only happen if the proper infrastructure is provided to them whereby the country could earn manifold the money it receives from transmittance from the migrated workers.

According to Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan of George Washington University every doctor who leaves a poor nation leaves a hole that cannot be filled. He says,

“That creates enormous problems for the source country and the educational and health leaders in the country who are attempting to provide healers”.

Research shows that at 20 countries export more than 10 percent of their physician work force to richer nations with nearly no reciprocation as the US exports less than one-tenth of 1 percent of its doctors. Economic factor is primarily responsible for this mass migration of the scientific community from poorer, host countries like Pakistan. In Pakistan the value placed for a scientist with an advanced level degree is Grade 17 which comes with a salary that is totally insufficient to meet the basic requirements of a family. So it is no surprise that the advanced countries are exploiting the situation by offering these individuals far more handsome incentives.

Asif J. Mir writes in ‘Pakistani Think Tank’,

“We cannot achieve long-term economic growth by exporting our human resource. In the new world order, people with knowledge drive economic growth. We talk a lot of poverty alleviation in Pakistan. But who is going to alleviate the poverty-the uncreative bureaucracy that created poverty? Hypothetically, the most talented should lead the people, create wealth and eradicate poverty and corruption”.

Phillip Bonosky, contributing editor of Political Affairs, writes in his book Afghanistan-Washington’s Secret War.

“Pakistan seems to have nothing but problems. Endemic poverty which was Great Britain’s imperial gift to the colonial world-a poverty on which the sun never sets-skilled (badly needed in Pakistan itself) abroad in search for jobs. Hardly any country has suffered more from the brain drain than has Pakistan. Nearly 3,000 (annually) graduates of Pakistan’s medical colleges are jobless; most go abroad. The educated see their future not in their home country but in any country but their own”.

According to a report in the The Observer, London,

“Pakistan is facing a massive brain drain as record numbers of people desperate to leave their politically unstable, economically chaotic country swamp foreign embassies with visa applications-The biggest number of applications for British visas are from Pakistan. Doctors, lawyers and IT professional and leading the exodus, but laborers and farmhands are joining the queues of malnourished people who gather daily outside the US embassy in Islamabad”.

The greatest effect of brain drain on any country is what is seen in Pakistan today; rampant corruption, poor administrations, lack of motivation and a fast diminishing nationalism. Unless there is nationalism there can be no collective progress and poverty and crime will continue to increase under the umbrella of plethoric apathy. Whatever the solution it needs to come fast and it needs to be come now otherwise – when the educated are away, the uneducated will play – as they are playing at the moment.

Photo Credits: Clicking on the photos will take you to their source pages.

94 responses to “Pakistan’s Brain Drain: Do We Not Know or Do We Not Care?”

  1. Asif says:

    I honestly feel its a game of ‘priorities’….all of us are aware of the current situation in the ask WHO is responsible for this…is not going to bring any good..instead we should be questioning ourselves …WHO is going to HELP …if not us???..

    quite obviously ‘brain-drain’ is only worsening the situation….

    Our country is in a dire need of sacrifices from its individuals…esp from those that have received education IN
    (and thus …FROM) Pakistan….

    the DYING nationalism is a very important point raised here…and i honestly feel….every Pakistani…should contribute towards injecting positivity (even if its in the form of a smallest e-mail)…in the society…

    All eyes r on us…even the smallest of (bad) incidents are being over highlighted by the media…esp the international media…and with each bad news….we are being given a minus 1….for being a Pakistani…

    On the other hand…we should be sympathized..for being adversely affected..and consoled…

    its not difficult to understand…that an ‘average’ citizen of Pakistan…is not ‘involved’…in the ‘bad’ that is going on…EVERY ONE HATES IT…then why should we feel ashamed of being a PAKISTANI??

    A strong faith…that it is MY country…my ancestors have sacrificed a lot for it…and now the duty for betterment is on MY shoulders…

    If anything that has to leave is the BAD..

    Its a tough choice to make….but its the one that HAS to be made…

    Asif Raza

  2. Ali says:

    Why we leave home the land where we born , grow and have our families and culture. Feel shame sometime but what a personal can do when society and the government has nothing to give back. I don’t blame the once who left Pakistan for good life. Almost 95% of my friends has moved to Europe and the rest of them are trying. My self move to US for better life and opportunities .The question is who is responsible for this brain Drain.
    Did first degree in Mechanical 98 then another in Journalism 03
    And spend the worse couple of year at home with no job. Move to US did another degree and working on Master. I achieved my dream life in just couple of year that I have always wanted. But at the same time feel guilty not staying back home and to serve my country. So many reason to leaving Pakistan.
    The Brain drain will never stop unless the government provides job ,security, benefits ,facilities .

  3. Javed Ali says:

    Key to reverse the brain drain is economic development.
    Three basic factors to develop economy are following:

    1. Stable Currency
    2. Political Stability
    3. Fair tax system and improving govt. dept. controlling commerce and trade (eliminating corruption)

    If govt. can achieve these three things people would love to invest and work in an economy with bright future. PAKISTAN ZINDABAD

  4. Javed Iqbal Shah says:

    Dear all,

    1. I was searching internet for writing an article on brain drain syndrome from Pakistan that I came to read the article of Irum Sarfraz. I want to congratulate Irum for writing such an informative, comprehensive and thought-provoking paper.

    2. I just want to add another dimension, which I consider as one of the causes of staying back of Pakistani professionals after completion of their studies abroad, and that is disregard for higher values, like service of one’s own motherland, urge to pay back what this country has done for us, and urge to contribute positively towards tranquility and progress in our country.

    3. Probably, I also came back from Norway to Pakistan after completing my MS because whenever I thought about staying back, I was overtaken by feelings of constructive shame and guilt for betraying my motherland.

    4. For the last 21 years, I am serving in defence forces of Pakistan and still feel proud of my decision to serve my people.

    Regards to all


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