Monday, September 25, 2023

Post Airlift-collapse, tech workers are leaving Pakistan - Rest of World

Last updated Monday, September 4, 2023 07:02 ET

Pakistan’s tech ecosystem is struggling due to a funding crunch, company closures, sky-high inflation, and a prolonged political crisis.
At least 800,000 Pakistanis sought employment abroad in 2022.
In early 2022, Zain Imran was applying for jobs at prominent startups in Pakistan — including at Airlift, an e-commerce platform that was poised to become the country’s first unicorn. Imran had recently moved back to Pakistan with a master’s degree in cybersecurity from a prominent university in the U.S. “I had heard about the speed at which things were being scaled up [at Airlift] and so I was really energized and excited to work for a Pakistani company growing at that massive scale,” the 28-year-old told Rest of World.
But then Airlift laid off 31% of its workforce; by the summer, the company had shut down entirely. “My plan was never to leave Pakistan, but I saw that things were changing, companies were folding, VC funding was drying up, there were hiring freezes,” Imran said. A friend told him about a role at a big tech platform in Singapore. Imran applied, sailed through his interviews, and relocated in August 2022.
Imran’s account echoes that of the thousands of tech workers leaving Pakistan. According to data released by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE), as many as 450,110 Pakistanis left the country in the first six months of this year, of which 26,405 were highly skilled workers, and 4,705 were engineers. In 2022, 832,339 Pakistanis obtained...

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