Govt plans to double remittances over next two years

ISLAMABAD — The government is vigorously planning to double workers’ remittances over the next two years by stepping up manpower export and by strengthening banks to discourage ‘hundi’ business.

By Our Correspondent

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Published: Tue 26 Aug 2008, 11:26 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:57 AM

“It is not a very difficult task to double annual remittances from $6 billion to $12 billion in the next two years by increasing the number of manpower from 2,87,000 to half a million plus annually”, Dr Ghayyur Sabur, Chairman, Policy Planning Cell of the Ministry of Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis told this correspondent.

The government has prepared a migration policy which has been circulated to all relevant ministries, ministerial divisions and private sector organisations to considerably improve foreign exchange reserves. The new migration policy has also been submitted to the higher authorities for approval. It stipulates country-specific measures to increase manpower export to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Bahrain, he said.

These five countries, he pointed out, have prepared plans of over one trillion dollars to develop new cities, oil cities, motorways, highways and mega malls for which they need huge manpower. These countries were in the process of awarding contracts for undertaking huge development activities in the region. “The initial contact made with these countries is very encouraging to send our increased manpower there”, he said.

He said overseas migration of the workforce has been an important dimension in addressing employment and development issues. As many as 4.16 million Pakistani workers went abroad for work during 1971-2007.

In 2007, the number of workers going abroad was 287,033. While many doctors, engineers and other professionals have been going abroad, their number nevertheless remains small. Overseas migrants are largely production workers — semi-skilled and skilled.

Wages of such workers are disproportionately low compared with technical and professional workers. The need for preparing suitably trained, qualified and professionals is clearly warranted. Among over 50 countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE remain the two most important destinations for Pakistani migrant workers.

Managing overseas migration means maintaining the share in the traditional markets in the Gulf countries and also responding to the changing pattern in demand taking place over there. It also relates to exploring new avenues in the non-traditional countries in East and South East Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. To them can be added Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom that have introduced point system for “immigration”.

Disciplined, trained and motivated workforce is the key to keep the size of Pakistani workforce intact in the traditional markets and penetrating in the non-traditional markets. Sufficiently trained workforce is emerging as a determining factor in the non-traditional markets. Timely processing overseas demand, ensuring relevance and quality of the workforce is a critical factor to enter the new markets, such as Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.

Dr Ghayur said that an Action Plan has been proposed in the draft migration policy for aggressive marketing overseas. Overseas migration should be placed as an important agenda item during the visits of foreign leaders and should be promoted by diplomatic efforts.

There is a demand for skilled workforce in the manufacturing, banking, insurance, small and medium enterprises, light engineering, construction, micro enterprises, export-oriented industries, transport, urban informal sector, etc. There is also demand for skilled workforce such as welders, carpenters, masons, electricians, cooks, plumbers, mechanics, technicians, engineers, nurses, paramedical personnel, machine operators, radiology technicians, and ICT and computer professionals.

The accurate account of skill needed at the national and overseas levels has yet to be worked out, he said. The need for training, assessment survey notwithstanding, skill requirements for different trades and occupations - based largely on the type of activities for generating employment has been worked out separately for rural and urban areas under seven broad categories. These categories are: SMEs, domestic commerce, services, agriculture, non-farm sector, agro-related and construction-related. Additional, training providers in the public and private sectors have also been broadly indicated.

Various centres of excellence impart training and a working knowledge of English, Korean, Arabic and Chinese. Private sector is also encouraged to act as language training provider.

Pakistani missions in major labour importing countries will have to be further instructed to provide all the necessary support in their work including facilitating meetings with important contractors/employers, Dr Ghayur believed.

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