ISLAMABAD: The number of Pakistani labourers recruited by Saudi Arabian employers dropped by 11 per cent to 460,000 in 2016 despite the fact that the kingdom has remained the busiest corridor for Pakistani migrants higher than in any year since 2005.
Nonetheless, in 2017, Bangladesh appears to have replaced Pakistan as the main source of labour force to Saudi Arabia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says in a new report, ‘Labour Migration in Asia’.
This downward trend is likely to continue since partial figures up to October 2017 indicate only 450,000 departures for overseas employment from Pakistan. The increase in Bangladeshi workers going to Saudi Arabia can be attributed to the end of a six-year ban on recruitment, which was lifted in mid-2016.
The flow of Pakistani workers to the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, during 2015-2016 declined, by almost 50 per cent. In 2016, the flow of workers to Asean countries was only 10,743 which included 10,625 to Malaysia as against 20,369 Pakistani workers in 2015. Only 33 Pakistani workers went to Singapore and 85 to Brunei Darussalam.
The ADB report points out that policy changes in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have reinforced the downward trend. In total, about 5 million workers were deployed from the 12 main Asian countries of origin in 2016. This corresponds to an 8pc decrease compared to the previous year.
Looking at the main non-OECD destination countries in Asia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries received 528,000 fewer Asian workers in 2016 than in 2015. Saudi Arabia, despite a 9pc drop in 2016, remains the top destination, with an inflow of more than 1m Asian foreign workers. The drop observed in 2016 can be related to the country’s economic situation, as well as to the ongoing “Saudization” policy, first introduced in 2011, which aims at reducing foreign worker reliance.
International migrants, that is, people residing in a country other than their own, have increased significantly over the last two decades. Out of the 247m migrants in the world estimated in 2015, around 30pc or 75m lived in Asia. This represents a 39pc increase from 48m migrants based in Asia in 1990. The majority of international migrants in the region are found in South Asia and Western Asia, accounting for 19pc and 51pc of the region’s total migrant stock, respectively.
The most striking change in 2015 among the OECD destination countries for Asian migrants is Germany, which jumped from seventh to fourth place in one year, to receive more Asian migration than traditional destination countries such as Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom.
Germany received 209,000 new Asian migrants in 2015, almost 100,000 more than a year before. This is mostly due to the dramatic rise in migration from
Afghanistan, and to a lesser extent from Pakistan. Indeed, 85,000 Afghans and 24,000 Pakistanis arrived in Germany in 2015, most of them seeking asylum.
However, even without these two nationalities, migration from Asia to Germany would still have increased by about 15pc, driven by migration from India, which has been on the rise every year since 2005.
Saudi Arabia has increased its share in remittances in Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Remittances from Gulf countries to the Philippines more than doubled in the same period, with remittances from the United Arab Emirates in particular more than tripling in the last 5 years. Despite their increasing importance for Asian workers and their home countries, remittances to Asia still make up a relatively small share of those sent from GCC countries.
The report says the ‘Pakistan Remittance Initiative’ (PRI), a joint initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, and Ministry of Finance is seen as a success story. The volume of remittances coming through formal channels have increased substantially.
By UN estimates, there were 244m international migrants living outside their countries of birth or citizenship in 2015. A significant portion of this global migrant population, 43pc or 104m, were born in Asia and a large portion is found in other Asian countries.
During 2000–2015, the number of migrants originating in Asia grew at a faster annual rate than those from any other world region, by an average of 2.8pc per year.
The biggest sources of emigrants are from China, India, and the Philippines, respectively, with Viet Nam and Pakistan forming the second tier.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018