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Hilal Her

Intellectual Brain Drain in Pakistan

February 2023

Our country is blessed with innumerable skilled high achievers in diverse fields, however, it is also true that Pakistan faces an onerous challenge – brain drain. The term ‘brain drain’ describes the exodus of highly qualified individuals in search of financial security, higher living standards, and access to stable socioeconomic environment in other regions of the world. While talented individuals who leave the country in pursuit of their aims are very often successful in achieving them, the effect on the overall progress and development of the country is adverse. Pakistani youth have proven themselves to be assets all around the world but Pakistan has not been able to capitalize on their potential for a variety of reasons.

Since its inception, Pakistan has been unable to acknowledge the crucial reality of retaining the pool of intelligent and gifted individuals. Pakistan’s productive human capital is relocating abroad before they could make any valuable contribution to the country’s development. Lack of merit-based employment opportunities, decrepit research culture, salaries that are not commensurate with candidates’ abilities, etc., show the country’s inability to take advantage of highly skilled people. Improvement in literacy rate in an environment of stagnancy in the job market leaves the qualified and skilled labor with few or even no chances to stay back and serve Pakistan, which is a significant factor in emigration to developed countries. Like many developing nations, the intelligentsia who may otherwise have had a significant impact on improving the nation’s future feel they are being neglected and even shunned.
The consequences of the brain drain issue are catastrophic. It results in the loss of strategic personnel from important positions and causes several disruptions. It has a negative impact on skill development and results in a loss of funds used for training and education. A country’s intellectual environment, infrastructure development, creative talent, existing and future technologies, and all of its intellectual activities are impacted by the loss of strategic manpower, which has a growth-decelerating effect. The majority of students attending domestic or international institutions are being drawn into profitable foreign employment marketplaces as a result of the unstable job market that has very few opportunities to offer and that too in limited areas. Professionals in Pakistan desire to work where they are compensated fairly for their qualifications and abilities.
According to a report from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, about 765,000 Pakistanis left their country in search of a better life abroad in 2022 alone a 300 percent increase from the previous year. The survey featured 92,000 highly educated people, including physicians, engineers, information technology specialists, and accountants. The emigrating educated youth included 5,534 engineers, 18,000 associate electrical engineers, 2,500 doctors, 2,000 computer experts, 6,500 accountants, 2,600 agricultural experts, over 900 teachers, 12,000 computer operators, 1,600 nurses and 21,517 technicians. It is unfortunate that the more qualified a person is, the more likely it is that they will go on to better prospects in the industrialized countries.
Pakistan is gradually losing its productive human capital as more and more intelligent and skilled people leave the country. The chances of creativity, inventions, intellectual grooming, and social mobility diminish over time in a nation devoid of its qualified, trained, talented graduates and scholars. 
But while we blame systemic and structural factors for Pakistan being unable to make use of its human capital and consequent brain drain, there is a flip side to this coin as well. Many think that brain drain is to blame for Pakistan’s comparatively poor performance metrics in scientific, research, space exploration, engineering, IT, and medical fields, etc. Disconcertingly, the lack of thoughtful policy input and interventions from qualified professionals promotes a culture of wrongdoing and mismanagement that causes the nation’s social fabric and mentality to become more and more susceptible to corrupt practices and looking for shortcuts.
When the issue of intellectual capital flight and its causes is raised, the counterargument frequently ends up the billions that Pakistanis living abroad send home in the form of remittances. The reality is that no matter how many funds our fellow countrymen and women send from abroad they can never be enough, gets lost in the noise. People with training and skills are a highly limited resource for developing nations. These nations’ development is halted if they lose them. In fact, several nations have been forced to recruit pricey consultants from abroad because they lost their brightest minds to the industrial world. No amount of foreign remittances can make up for this loss.
Generally speaking, an exodus of human capital from emerging nations is problematic. Loss of female human capital, however, is probably going to be extremely costly. High competence does not always equate to empowerment, and female graduates have a difficult road ahead of them. About 48.54% Pakistan population constitutes of women, with the female literacy rate of about 46.49%. According to the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2022, Pakistan ranks 145 out of 156 for female economic participation and opportunity and mostly women in the country are unable to work due to social, economic and cultural barriers. Systemic disparities in Pakistan impede women’s entry into the workforce and advancement in their careers because of gender bias in hiring and a lack of opportunities to hold the positions of power. The race to recruit the world’s top global talent has certainly opened up new avenues for educated women from developing countries like Pakistan to improve their work-life prospects and so women are availing these lucrative opportunities. 
The loss is catastrophic for Pakistan; if all the competent women are gone, who is left to fill the gap that they leave behind? Statistics already show a disappointing outlook about women’s literacy and their input in the labor market of Pakistan. In these circumstances, the already yawning gender gap affecting Pakistan progression is being widened and aggravated. Pakistan stands at a huge loss of its productive work force because not only it loses talented women but most of the time these women take their spouses with them as well, thus further depriving the country of people who can contribute to its development. 
Pakistan must take immediate measures to increase economic stability, such as lowering the maximum budget deficit while also taking actions to ensure more employment opportunities be provided that pay workers fairly for their abilities and talents. Deterring brain drain needs long-term economic infrastructure that can absorb different shocks of low levels of inflation and can accommodate disruptions in the supply chain for a specific period so that the economy might not be affected by long-term recession and severe unemployment. Provision of necessary infrastructure for research and development should be implemented and a merit-based system must be enforced. Since intellectual capital is the real engine of all national progress and growth, authorities should foster an environment that supports its retention in order to prevent the country from losing its intellectual lot. 
While the impact of brain drain is evident, Pakistan needs to tackle this issue with the urgency it deserves. The data is overwhelming that Pakistan is losing bright individuals at an alarming rate due to a variety of factors. If it is not stopped in a timely manner and plans are not made to deal with the loss, the nation might suffer severe consequences on a number of fronts. HH

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