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Pakistan – Survey on Drivers of Migration: Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy (REMAP) 2019

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With 6.3 million emigrants, amounting to over three per cent of the population, Pakistan is one of the top 10 emigration countries in the world (UNDESA, 2019). There has been a considerable increase in the number of Pakistani emigrants in the previous decades, rising from 140,000 in 2005 to a peak of nearly one million in 2015. Most recently, the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) registered more than 600,000 workers, students, and others going abroad in 2019 (BEOE, 2020).

Pakistanis most commonly migrate overseas for work. Labour migration has been historically relevant in Pakistan, where, by the 1980s, the foreign exchange earnings from remittances were greater than the sum of earnings from other sources, equating to ten per cent of the country's GNP (IOM, 2016; Gazdar, 2003). Today, seeking employment abroad continues to constitute a core part of Pakistan’s economy and its government efforts to reduce unemployment and poverty in the country. It is further encouraged by the government's development of an advanced legal and institutional framework for migration as well as a dedicated ministry, the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis, which manages and maintains the welfare of Pakistani nationals abroad (IOM, 2019).

The most common destinations for labour migrants are neighbouring countries and Gulf states; since 1971, the BEOE has registered 5.55 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and 3.91 million working in the UAE (BEOE (a), 2020).
Migrants traveling to neighbouring countries or Gulf states tend to be low-skilled or semi-skilled migrant workers whose migration are normally short-term (IOM (a), 2019; UNESCAP, n.d.). Alternatively, labour migrants going to Europe prefer to stay overseas long-term, often with their families1 (IOM (a), 2019; UNESCAP, n.d.).

Educational migration is also an important facet of Pakistani emigration. There is significant outward student mobility from Pakistan, as evidenced by a sharp increase in the number of Pakistani students abroad from 2006 (24,671) to 2010 (36,366) (IOM (a), 2019; Ahmed et al., 2015). In 2011, some 49,000 students from Pakistan were studying abroad, seventy-six per cent of whom were doing so in OECD countries (IOM (a), 2019; OECD, 2013). By the first quarter of 2019, China, one of Pakistan’s primary destinations for study abroad, hosted around 28,000 Pakistani students (“China Rising,” 2019). A majority of students migrate with their own finances or are financed by their families, however, the establishment of the Higher Education Commission in 2002 fostered opportunities for students from lower income families to go abroad for higher studies (Ahmed et al., 2015).

In 2016, IOM DTM collected data on Pakistani migrants before migration to Europe, in transit, in final destinations in Europe, upon return from Europe and amongst families left behind in Pakistan using DTM’s Comprehensive Migration Flows Survey (CMFS). In 2018, flow monitoring data was collected on Pakistani migrants in in Europe through the DTM Flow Monitoring Survey (FMS). While these studies specifically focus on migration to Europe, their findings will be reexamined in the following report in order to draw contextual comparisons.

This quantitative study, the Survey on the Drivers of Migration (SDM), is the first stage of a three-year research and policy program conducted by IOM and financed by the European Union under a regional program called REMAP (Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy). The objective of REMAP, which is implemented by DTM at regional and country levels, is to strengthen the evidence-based formulation and implementation of humanitarian and development policy and programming on migration and forced displacement in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and Pakistan through the dissemination of insights gained from DTM’s research. Data for the SDM was collected in January 2020, targeting Pakistani potential migrants in five provinces (Baluchistan,
Islamabad, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Punjab and Sindh).

It should be noted that Islamabad is the federal capital territory, and therefore counts as both a province and district in this report. Enumerators used a structured questionnaire and interviewed respondents in person. Seven hundred and sixty-one respondents in 19 districts with high international, outward migration were interviewed. Geographical sampling was based on existing figures from the BEOE. The objective of this study is to unpack the motivations behind Pakistani migration to different regions by covering a range of migration variables.

This report is divided into two main sections, preceded by a summary of key findings. The first section covers the methodology used in this research study, including sampling and limitations. The second section covers the findings and is divided into four thematic sub-sections. The first subsection contains a socio-economic profile of the respondents. The second subsection explores the drivers of Pakistani migration in terms of pull factors attracting migrants to specific destinations, push factors encouraging people to leave and challenges that potential migrants face at individual, household and community levels. In the third subsection, the report examines how respondents obtained information relevant to their migration decision-making, their future intentions and transnational support structures. Finally, the last subsection comprises respondents' conditions to stay and future aspirations.

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