ISLAMABAD (ILO News): The Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis has drafted a first ever National Policy for Overseas Pakistanis with a focus on maximizing welfare and empowerment of Pakistani diaspora working in different countries across the globe. The draft Policy was presented for a review in a national consultative workshop organized jointly by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and the International Labour Organization (ILO) here in Islamabad.
The Consultative Workshop was chaired by Dr Farooq Sattar, Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis – who has resigned from his ministry two days back but the resignation is still to be accepted by the Prime Minister. Mr Malik Ammad Khan, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, was the guest of honour. Apart from that, the representatives from all relevant Government Ministries, Academia, Civil Society and UN Agencies participated.
The participants of the consultative workshop appreciated the first ever National Policy for Overseas Pakistanis and demanded to include the following areas in the national Policy:
a. Pakistan should ratify ILO Conventions (97 and 143) regarding rights of Migrant Workers and UN Convention on protection of migrant workers and the national Policy should be aligned to the provisions of these conventions.
b. At present, only 0.12 per cent Pakistani women work abroad – very low by all standards. There is a need to take proactive steps to increase women’s participation in overseas employment.
c. The Policy should recognize Social Protection as a basic human right of Overseas Pakistanis as per Constitution of Pakistan and make necessary efforts to include OPs in existing Social Protection schemes available for Pakistani workers. Similarly, a scheme should be announced for protection and insurance of ‘deported workers’ and help them in reintegration.
d. The Government of Pakistan should include ‘Overseas Pakistanis and their rights’ in all international negotiations with developed countries.
e. The Pakistani Embassies in OP-destination countries should actively support ‘Social Networks and Associations’ of Overseas Pakistanis and use this platform to provide necessary legal aid and other facilities to OPs at their workplaces.
f. Special training institutes be established to impart vocational and technical training courses according to the standards of overseas employments
Addressing the workshop, the Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, Dr Farooq Sattar said he is proud to present the first ever National Policy for Overseas Pakistanis to the august gathering. He said this policy has firm roots in people of Pakistan and it recognizes a great contribution of Overseas Pakistanis to the national building. He said that through this policy, the role of OPs in development of Pakistan becomes inevitable. He said that policy is offering Ops to become partners in development – instead of just recipients. He highlighted a number of schemes for OPS in the country including Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), Housing Societies for Ops, Pakistan Remittances Initiative (PRI), Foreign Exchange Remittance Card (FERC) and preferential education facilities for siblings of Ops. He said he has put up three Bills in National Assembly for recognizing rights of Overseas Pakistanis – particularly their right to vote and representation.
Earlier the Federal Secretary Overseas Pakistanis, Mr Nadeem Ashraf welcomed participants and mentioned that the number of Overseas Pakistanis (OP) is growing rapidly and the total number of OPs has crossed the 7 million mark. While working abroad, the Overseas Pakistanis not only earn income and send remittances but also learn to apply latest technologies and earn goodwill for the country. In some cases, they transfer these new technologies to Pakistan and benefit their countrymen. In return, it is imperative on the Government of Pakistan to provide maximum possible benefits and support to OPs in their genuine problems. The draft Policy is a major step in increasing welfare and empowerment of OPs – which speaks about social protection, legal aid, right to vote and representation of OPs in parliament. He thanked ILO for support in organizing the consultation with relevant stakeholders.
The Country Director ILO-Islamabad, Mr Francesco d’Ovidio gave an overview of the situation of Migrant Workers in the world and in the Region. He said that Pakistan is 6th largest labour force in the world with a majority of young population. He also informed that Pakistan is 3rd in Asia having highest number of youth aspiring to work abroad. First two are Cambodia and Bangladesh. This makes it very important for Pakistan to have a solid and clear policy to support overseas employment for Pakistani youth. He also highlighted major decent work deficits for Pakistani Migrant Workers and recommended to adopt a ‘right-based’ approach in preparing national policies.
The Country Representative IOM, Mr Enrico Ponziani welcomed the positive step of the Government of Pakistan in making a national policy for overseas Pakistanis. He said currently 23 per cent of world population is migrant worker. However, most of them lack information and knowledge about safe migration. He recommended that apart from looking at the migrant workers from ‘remittance’ point of view, there is a need to look at their human side as well and help them address their problems.
The growing pace of economic globalization has created more migrant workers than ever before. Unemployment and increasing poverty have prompted many workers in developing countries to seek work elsewhere, while developed countries have increased their demand for labour, especially unskilled labour. As a result, millions of workers and their families travel to countries other than their own to find work. There are an estimated 214 million migrants worldwide (UNDESA) comprising 3% of the global population. Over half of migrants are migrant workers. Recent recorded outflows from South Asian countries are around 2 million workers annually. Labour migration appears to be an established structural feature in some Asian economies and foreign labour fill over 90% of private sector jobs in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Labour migration in the region is expected to continue due to demographic evolution, relative labour shortages and economic disparities. While labour migration generates substantial benefits, abuses during recruitment and employment are quite common and have been well documented
For further information please contact:
M. Saifullah Chaudhry (PhD)
Senior Programme Officer
ILO Country Office for Pakistan
Tel.: +92 51 2276456-8