By Ghulam Haider
As many as 37 per cent of the Pakistan’s population would like to leave the country if they are given an opportunity to do so with economic reasons to be the most dominant one for their desire to settle abroad, revealed a survey by renowned think-tank namely Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).
Search for equal opportunities and more respect comes out to be the next two important reasons. Looking for gender equality and more security also feature among the major reasons for the desire to leave the country.
Why do people want to leave if they want to leave? Leaving one’s home is not an easy option, but if people desire to do so there have to be some very strong reason(s) behind it. The PIDE BASICS Survey look into these reasons and find economic reasons to be the most dominant one.
To gauge the desire of the people to stay in or leave the country, the PIDE BASICS Survey asks the respondents if they were given a chance to leave Pakistan would they like to do it, and if yes, the reason(s) for it. We see this sentiment in the four provinces and the three territories, and across regions, sex, age, and education and income levels.
Among the four provinces, the desire to leave the country is highest in Balochistan (42 per cent), followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. The desire is lowest in Punjab but not by much. Balochistan has not just the lowest number (47%) of those wanting to stay in the country but also the largest proportion of those who are ambivalent, expressed by the 11% who are uncertain about whether they want to leave the country or stay on.
Among the three territories, people in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have the highest proportion (44 per cent) of those wanting to leave the country, followed by Gilgit Baltistan (GB). Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has the lowest proportion of those wanting to leave the country across all administrative categories.
In our daily lives, we often hear people say “things are so bad in Pakistan, I wish I could leave”. On the contrary, we also hear “I can never ever think of leaving Pakistan, no matter what”. While there is almost a consensus among the population that the country is not going the way it should have been, hence the response to it is varied.
BASICS survey showed how strongly age and sex affect the way people conceptualised their identity. It was found that the desire to leave the country is even more strongly linked to a person’s age and sex, which is much higher for males than females, across all age groups without any exception. It is also the strongest among the youngest age group (15-24-year-olds) males, with a huge 62 per cent wanting to leave the country. But this desire dims with age for both males and females.
Education is considered a variable that can have far-reaching consequences for most aspects of a human’s life. Education does influence the desire, or lack of it, to leave the country but after a certain level of education, the trend stagnates.
The desire to leave the country is the weakest among those who have never been to school (22 per cent).
Those wanting to leave the country increase with increasing level of education but the increase is not proportionate to the level of education achieved. The rates stagnate after secondary schooling.
Are those with less income more likely to wish for leaving the country? The answer from the PIDE BASICS Survey says, not really! Looking at the income quintiles and the proportion wanting to leave the country.
The desire increases with increasing income but not by any drastic proportions. After the fourth quintile (42 per cent), the desire dips again (37 per cent).
Looking for more income and equal/better all-around opportunities was not surprising but moving out to gain more respect was an unexpected response. At the national level, it is the second most reported reason (44 per cent) for the desire to leave the country.
Not much difference is found between urban and rural Pakistan, defying yet again the notion that people in these two regions are very different. Across the provinces and regions, there were quite different reasons spurring the desire to leave the country. The monetary factor (better income) is the major factor for all, but in Sindh and Balochistan, the desire for more respect outweighs the urge for equal opportunities.
Moving out for more security was reported the most in Sindh, followed by Balochistan and AJK.
Gender equality as a reason to desire moving out of the country was reported the most in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This links to the biological basis for identity as a major source reported by the people of the province. GB has a large proportion giving ‘other’ reasons, and it mainly comprised of reasons linked to getting better/higher education.
The younger population, especially young males, are overwhelmingly inclined towards leaving the country. Better income remains the top reason for both males and females, of all ages but the rates are much higher for the former (above 80 per cent) than the latter (± 65 per cent).
Gender equality as a pull factor to other countries is higher for females than males, and more so for younger females than older ones. The idea that moving overseas would bring in more respect can be seen for both sexes across all age categories.
‘Other’ reasons become substantial at the oldest age category for both the sexes, and analysis of the survey data shows that it is mainly to be with children residing overseas.