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Recruitment of Pakistani Workers for Overseas Mechanisms, Exploitation and Vulnerabilities




G.M Arif


Pakistan has annual migratory out-flow of more than 150,000 workers to different countries in the Middle East, but primarily to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. More than 60% of migrant workers originate from only 20 of the country’s 110 districts. The majorities of migrants obtain their foreign employment contract either through private Overseas Employment Promotes (OEPs) or obtain a direct visa. Moreover, labor migration from Pakistan to the Middle East is almost exclusively male. The inflow of remittances, reaching a peak of US$ 4.6 billion in 2005-2006 and US$4.45 billion in 2006-2007. The government of Pakistan has developed various institutions and rules to govern and regulate the labor recruitment process. Legally Pakistanis can go abroad through three channels: a public agency, private recruiting agent or following direct contract with foreign employers. The study found that about half of the migrants has been recruited by OEPs, while one-fifth had used friends and relatives. Another one-fifth of the respondents had received their visas directly from their foreign employers. About 14% of the respondents had been illegal migrants, including those who stayed on after the Haj/Umra pilgrimage, or who had gone abroad without documentation. Although the Government of Pakistan has taken several steps to make the recruitment system and migration process transparent, there is strong evidence that regulatory measure have not been able to curb all exploitative practices, including organized forms of illegal migration. A set of recommendations is provided on priority areas for further policy and institutional support.

Number of pages


Place published



International Labor Organization

File Attachments



migrant workers, Workers Rights, Labor migration, Pakistan, recruitment, private employment agency, remittance, return migration, Gulf States

Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work, Sales and service occupations - general, Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations - general, and Other

Content types

Policy analysis and Support initiatives

Target groups

Policymakers, Public awareness, Researchers, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Regulation domains

Remittances and co-development programs, Recrutement / placement agencies, and Migration expenses reimbursement mechanisms

Geographical focuses


Spheres of activity

Economics, Law, and Sociology