Youngsters leaving the Country, Brain Drain or Brain assets
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Youngsters leaving the Country, Brain Drain or Brain assets

Brain Drain or Brain assets

With the economic crunch that the country finds itself in, every young graduate is aiming to grab any opportunity to move out of the country to secure his and his family’s future. The dollar’s price is reaching a new high every day and investors have started losing their faith in the market, many economists have called this the worst turmoil in the country’s history. As per different news reports and the data shared by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), 765,000 people left Pakistan for abroad in 2022, nearly triple the 225,000 departures in 2021 and 288,000 emigrants in 2020. This year’s data also included 92,000 highly-educated people such as doctors, engineers, information technology experts, 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. The group of unskilled workers comprised 213,000 drivers. The data clearly suggests that more and more people from all walks of life are leaving the country, mainly because of financial reasons. But is it right to term this phenomenon as “Brain Drain”? The recent remarks by the Caretaker Prime Minster sparked a new debate on social media.

On two occasions, first in a meeting with business delegates, and secondly while cheering a session with Harvard students, the Caretaker Prime Minister said that the media and others are wrongfully portraying this whole episode rendering it as hopeless in the youth of the country. He mentioned the case of India and said that in the 1960s people were leaving India in bulk and that was also being portrayed as a “brain drain” but 40 years down the history line, the same people have returned to the country as “brain assets.” This statement of his was vehemently criticized by some people on Twitter and many called this statement as “insensitive” as it totally ignored the catastrophe that people here are facing. Ammar Rashid (an Islamabad-based researcher and political organizer) quoted that tweet and said “Only state on the planet proud of the fact that its citizens are escaping the country in the hundreds of thousands at the mercy of human traffickers & dying at sea out of economic & social desperation. Shameless celebration of state failure & economic collapse.”

In the next meeting with the students of Harvard, the Prime Minister was more precise, he said “For me, the people who chose to stay in the United States, or anywhere else in the western hemisphere, it’s not a challenge, at the same it is an opportunity as well at the same time. They go there, they contribute positively to the society and they also send remittance back home and hence play a role in contributing towards the economy”. Again, these remarks were met with severe criticism, Famous morning show host, Farah Hussain commented “Brain Drain where the engine of any country and economy the best minds and most productive persons exit a country Pakistan can’t handle youth bulge can’t give them employment and decent life because of corruption and injustice and they die in ships n seas as illegal immigrants”.

There can be many lenses through which we can look at this phenomenon of people leaving the country and the caretaker Prime Minister might be focusing too much on just one aspect. It is true that people who are leaving the country will become our asset one day, but it is also a fact that most of them do not want to leave their homeland but they are left with no choice. The imagery that we saw in that sinking ship should have been enough to wake up the moral conscience but it seems like we are still beating around the bush and our only solution to fight the current economic crises is either gaslighting people or through taxing the salaried the class of the country. It’s about time for our political elite to stand up and address the issue instead of downplaying the crisis.

Related: Education and National Security: Where Do We Stand?

The writer, Muhammad Saad, is an M.Phil scholar of Political Science at GCU Lahore.

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