August 16, 2020

This week we look at labour migration and the vulnerability of the Pakistani workforce abroad post Covid

As the pandemic continues to reshape economies worldwide through a slowdown of various economic activities resulting in massive job losses, it also continues to alter other aspects of human lives, collective and individual. Our report this week explores the subject of labour migration in the wake of the pandemic that has once again laid bare the vulnerability of the Pakistani workforce abroad.

The most significant dimension we explore is the exploitation through hiring agencies and individuals of low and unskilled labour, willing to put anything and everything at stake, to secure jobs abroad, particularly in the Gulf region. This unregulated aspect of labour migration through informal hiring has resulted in the manipulation of labour workforce and their exposure to dangerous jobs as well as risky situations in foreign countries. Our reporters look at how this affects not just the larger workforce and industries but also humans at the heart of the suffering.

There is a lot to be desired in terms of the role the government can play to secure rights and ensure well-being of its workforce abroad, even in friendly countries. Experts talk about the need for the government to focus on skill improvement and regulation of labour migration from the country as well as ensuring a functional mechanism that allows it to secure welfare of its citizens in host countries.

Now, six months into the pandemic, a bigger question is: what does the government plan to do about the returning workforce? In this regard, despite tall claims, there are more questions than satisfactory answers.

Experts believe that the impact of the pandemic on the global economic activity will result in a significant decline in foreign remittances as Pakistani workers abroad are forced to return. Forecasts by international bodies, including the World Bank, indicate that global remittances are projected to decline sharply in 2020 with the Asian Development Bank placing Pakistan among the five worst-affected Asian economies.

We take a look at all these challenges this week in our Special Report.