Aaj English TV

Monday, May 20, 2024  
11 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Who is leaving Pakistan? Data visualization debunks brain drain claims

Amid an outcry of brain drain from the country, we dig deeper into official data

Data visualization by the author

Nearly 400,000 Pakistanis left the country to seek employment overseas in the first six months of 2023, according to a dataset released by Pakistan’s Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment earlier this month. The number sparked an outcry with many claiming Pakistan was facing a brain drain crisis. However, when Aaj News visualized the same data, it told a different story.

While the term “brain drain” connotes an exodus of urban-dwelling highly educated people, the choropleth map we created suggests that most of the people leaving the country do not come from major urban centres and they are not in professions that require a university degree.

People who left the country between January and June 2023 are skilled and unskilled workers who would likely take up blue-collar jobs overseas and send remittance to their homes in rural districts of Pakistan.

Workforce export

Brain drain by definition means the emigration of highly trained or qualified people from a particular country, such as groups of doctors, health care workers, scientists, engineers, or financial professionals.

These people work what is known as white-collar jobs.

Worker type Workers Percentage
Artists 539 0.14%
Skilled labour 158,329 40.07%
Unskilled labour 169,335 42.85%
Professionals 66,963 16.95%

The government data shows that out of the 400,000 people who left Pakistan in the past six months, nearly 69,000 (or 17% of the total) fall under this category. They include accountants, doctors, nurses, engineers, computer analysts, and even technicians, teachers, and salespersons.

Additionally, at least 539 artists, designers and photographers left the country.

Data visualization by the author

At least to the extent of the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment data, Pakistan is exporting labour to other countries to increase its national income.

Districts sending their sons overseas

A choropleth map (at the top of this story) created by Aaj News based on the official data shows that people from most of Punjab districts are leaving the country to find employment overseas.

The southern Punjab districts are known for rampant unemployment, but much to our surprise we found that the provincial capital of Lahore and nearby regions of Sialkot, Gujranwala, and Faisalabad were also struggling to meet employment needs and people from these districts have sought work overseas.

In southern Punjab, the Dera Ghazi Khan district topped the list.

In the Sindh province, Larkana, Shahdad Kot, Dadu, and Ghokti were among the leading exporters of the workforce.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat district is well known for sending its sons to Gulf countries. Our map translated the official data into a brown polygon for the district.

From the rest of the country, between a dozen and a few hundred people left from each district, and this was shown in yellow.

The map, however, does not offer a representation of the people leaving Pakistan illegally.

Destinations for Pakistanis

Data visualization by the author

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the top two destinations for around 73% of the people leaving Pakistan.

Over 47% of the nearly 400,000 Pakistanis who left the country in the first half of 2023, ended up in Saudi Arabia and 25% in UAE.

Qatar and Oman were the next two destinations followed by Malaysia.

Nearly 5,000 people left for the United Kingdom and only 500 for the United States. In mainland Europe, Greece, Germany, and Italy were the top destinations.

China welcomed at least 818 Pakistanis in the first six months of 2023.

For the latest news, follow us on Twitter @Aaj_Urdu. We are also on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


overseas pakistani