The following is excerpts from an article in YesPakistan, a publication of The Human Development Foundation, a non-profit that support development projects in Pakistan.
“… The key reason for the migration of rural dwellers to urban centres has been the limited opportunity for economic advancement and mobility in rural areas. Much of this stagnation has been caused by the firmly entrenched feudal practices of landlords in the countryside. They tend to wield an inordinate amount of economic and political control over their domains.
The urban migrant is almost invariably male. Although he has moved to the city, in practice he retains his ties with his village, and his rights there are acknowledged long after his departure. At first, the migration is frequently seen as a temporary expedient, a way to purchase land or pay off a debt. Typically, the migrant sends part of his earnings to the family he left behind and returns to the village to work at peak agricultural seasons. Even married migrants usually leave their families in the village when they first migrate. The decision to bring wife and children to the city is thus a milestone in the migration process.
The next wave of migration has then been the move from urban centres in Pakistan to urban centres overseas, especially the Middle East. The Middle East, with its vast oil wealth, has provided many opportunities for overseas labourers to work and earn a living building and maintaining infrastructure in various Arab states, especially in the Persian Gulf.
… The majority of migrant workers are working-class men who travel alone leaving their wives and children behind. These men are willing to sacrifice years with their families for what they see as their only chance to escape poverty in a society with limited upward mobility. Families generally use the overseas earnings for consumer goods rather than investing in industry. The wage earner typically returns after five to ten years to live at home.
Although this migration has had little effect on Pakistan demographically, it has affected its social fabric. While a man is away from his family, his wife often assumes responsibility for many day-to-day business transactions that are considered the province of men. For the women involved, therefore, there has been a significant change in social role. Psychologists point out that many migrant workers in the Middle East are profoundly affected. They tend to feel a sense of social isolation, culture shock, and are depressed by the harsh working conditions in these countries. They also suffer from a sense of disorientation resulting from the sudden acquisition of relative wealth and from the guilt associated with leaving their families.”
Source: “Migration and Pakistan.” June 18th, 2002. http://www.yespakistan.com/people/migration_pak.asp