Fa­cil­i­tat­ing over­seas work­ers

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

PAK­ISTAN is one of the largest labour ex­port­ing coun­tries in the re­gion. Ris­ing amounts of re­mit­tances from the over­seas work­force are a ma­jor source of in­come not only for their fam­i­lies but also for the na­tional ex­che­quer. Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the Bureau of Em­i­gra­tion, dur­ing 1971-2014, around 7.8 mil­lion Pak­ista­nis pro­ceeded abroad for em­ploy­ment, with a ma­jor­ity of them con­cen­trated in the Mid­dle Eastern coun­tries. Around 49% of to­tal ex­pat work­ers are in the Mid­dle East, with Europe fol­low­ing with 28.2% and US 16%. Thanks to the ef­forts of around 2000 li­censed Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Pro­mot­ers, man­power ex­port has in­creased from 0.62 mil­lion in 2013 to 0.75 mil­lion in 2014. Saudi Ara­bia and UAE top the list of coun­tries pre­ferred by mil­lions of Pak­istani job seek­ers aim­ing for em­ploy­ment abroad. The latest data shows that about 50% man­power ex­port is to UAE while more than 37% of to­tal man­power ex­port goes to Saudi Ara­bia. The num­ber of work­ers reg­is­tered for Saudi Ara­bia has in­creased from 0.2 mil­lion in 2013 to 0.3 mil­lion in 2014. In 2014, UAE and Malaysia hired more Pak­ista­nis as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

News­pa­pers are full of re­ports that Pak­ista­nis pro­ceed­ing abroad have to face a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties in com­plet­ing the nec­es­sary pa­per work, in­clud­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions of var­i­ous kinds, ver­i­fi­ca­tion of doc­u­ments and pro­tec­torate stamp. Be­fore trav­el­ling, em­i­grants have to go through a long process of ap­ply­ing for a Na­tional Iden­tity Card for Over­seas Pak­ista­nis (NICOP), get­ting the pro­tec­torate stamp which in­volves pay­ing fees at dif­fer­ent bank branches, fill­ing in af­fi­davits and at­tach­ing copies of var­i­ous doc­u­ments. While the nor­mal fee for a NICOP and pro­tec­torate stamp comes to around Rs9,000, some­times peo­ple have to pay as much as Rs25,000 to agents to get the work done. Ex­pa­tri­ates have long com­plained that their con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional econ­omy has never been truly ac­knowl­edged. Cases have hap­pened where Pak­ista­nis leav­ing for work abroad have been turned away from the air­port mo­ments be­fore de­par­ture.

Against this back­ground, it is good news that the gov­ern­ment has al last awo­ken to the prob­lems of over­seas Pak­istani work­ers and made a new ar­range­ment un­der which mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment agen­cies have agreed to de­pute of­fi­cers for ad­dress­ing the com­plaints of ex­pa­tri­ates. The FIA, Di­rec­torate Gen­eral of Immigration and Pass­ports, Bureau of Immigration and Over­seas Em­ploy­ment, Min­istry of Re­li­gious Af­fairs, Over­seas Pak­ista­nis Foun­da­tion, Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity and other agen­cies will col­lab­o­rate to man fa­cil­i­ta­tion desks at the coun­try's nine in­ter­na­tional air­ports. The sys­tem has re­port­edly been rolled out at Is­lam­abad, La­hore and Karachi air­ports.

Ac­cord­ing to a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the fed­eral om­buds­man, com­plaints re­lated to at­tes­ta­tions of ed­u­ca­tional cer­tifi­cates can be ad­dressed online. From now on most of these is­sues will be sorted out right at the air­port. NADRA and the pro­tec­torate of­fice will de­pute of­fi­cers for nec­es­sary ap­provals and banks will col­lect fees at the air­ports. The reg­is­trar of the griev­ance com­mis­sion for over­seas Pak­ista­nis has in a Press state­ment clar­i­fied that un­der the new sys­tem of check­ing ev­ery­thing online no one will be al­lowed to raise un­nec­es­sary ob­jec­tions. How­ever, it is still un­clear whether the hu­mil­i­at­ing prac­tice of ask­ing work­ing women to bring NOC from their fam­i­lies will be abol­ished or not. There are no laws to bar a woman want­ing to go abroad for work with a valid visa, yet she is asked to sub­mit signed af­fi­davits stat­ing she is sin­gle. In case she is mar­ried, she needs an NOC from her hus­band, who has to ap­pear be­fore the Pro­tec­torate of Em­i­grants. This rule which is dili­gently en­forced by the seven pro­tec­torates around the coun­try cre­ates a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties for women go­ing abroad for work.

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