Poverty in Pakistan: statistics and facts
As one of the largest sources of pro-poor spending in the country, Al-Rahimya Foundation is the leading institution working on poverty reduction in Pakistan. By creating public-private partnership, Al-Rahimya Foundation addresses the multi-dimensional issues of poverty with a goal to achieve social and economical change for long-term stability. Through these partnerships and the programmes created under them, Al-Rahimya Foundation works to support and strengthen the institutions for the poor (partner organisations) and ensuring that they are well governed, transparent, democratic and accountable.
Calculating a poverty line grounded on some lowest standard level of consumption and assessing the proportion of population below that line, are the most frequently used standard for the measurement of income or consumption‐related poverty. However, Planning Commission of Pakistan has recommended an official poverty line in 2000, after 53 years of its independence. According to the definition of Planning Commission, the official poverty line for Pakistan will be estimated on 2350 calories per adult equivalent per day. This is based on an adult equivalent intake of 2150 calories in the urban areas and 2450 calories in the rural areas. Recent trends of poverty in Pakistan are being presented in Table 1.
The above data illustrate that the incidence of poverty is not constant. There is a persistent decline in poverty based on official poverty evaluation since 2000–2001. There was an elevation in poverty during 1987–1988 to 1998–1999. It was still nearby in 2001–2002 (34.5%). But, it was followed by sudden decline of more than 10% in 2004–2005. Following years from 2004 to 2011 indicates further decline in poverty. Nevertheless, this trend of fast decreasing in poverty has not only created a huge disturbance in the media, but also among development authorities and civil society. But, these trends obtained a support from independent evaluation by the World Bank, which revised the trends in poverty and accepted the decline in poverty.
Human development index
According to a recent global survey, Pakistan is ranked at 147 out of 188 countries in 2014, which is very low in term of human development, and also lower than neighboring countries like India (130), Bangladesh (142), Iran (69), and Sri Lanka (73). Pakistan scored 0.538 points on human development index (HDI) of 2014, which showed improvement of 0.002 points from previous year, but did not change the overall ranking. Recent trends of HDI in Pakistan are presented in Table 2.
The trends in HDI show a continuous increase in points from 1980 to 2014. However, the ranking of Pakistan remains in very low human development index countries.
Access to education is still a major challenge to Pakistan. Even though enrollment rates for primary school have increased in the past, these are still very low compared to universal values, and also lower than other low‐income countries. Similar to poverty, there are major regional, rural‐urban and gender disparities. A recent research has shown a relationship between literacy rate and poverty by calculating four indicators (literacy of household heads, their educational attainment, the presence of a literate woman in a household, and highest qualification in a household) . This study showed that families with higher education levels are less exposed to poverty. For example, in Punjab province, poverty was three and half times higher in families headed by an illiterate person than families headed by literate persons. In Sindh province, 55% of poor families were headed by illiterate persons compared to 27% of poor families headed by literate persons.
Health situation and access to health services are other major challenges to Pakistan. All indicators stay at low levels except immunization rate, which points out reduced development. It could be due to very low public spending on health (0.3% of GDP), comparing with regional (0.9% in South Asia) and low‐income countries (1.6%). Similarly, infant mortality rate and life expectancy are very low.
Gender inequality is another issue which poses a major challenge to Pakistan. Female literacy rates remain low at 42%. Health status of women is also worse than men, and it is affected by the lack of information, mobility, and social norms. The idea of gender includes our hope about the characteristics, approaches, and behavior of women and men, and is vital in facilitating gender analysis. Majority of the females are earning less monthly income as compared to males in both urban and rural areas of Pakistan. Majority of the female in rural and urban areas of Pakistan belongs to low‐income groups. So, there is a clear indication that feminization of poverty or gender inequality exists in both urban and rural areas of Pakistan.