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The News

Published Date: Sep 25, 2012

58.7 MILLION PAKISTANIS ARE POOR

One-third of Pakistan’s population or 58.7 million people live below the poverty line. This alarming disclosure has been made in the latest study of SDPI (Sustainable Development Policy Institute) titled ‘Clustered deprivation: District profile of poverty in Pakistan’, which is being made public on Monday.

“Some 21 per cent of the households in Pakistan fall in the category of extremely poor. This proportion is very high in the rural areas; one-third of the rural households fall in the category of extremely poor as compared to only eight per cent urban households.”

According to the study, a huge rural-urban disparity is observed in the incidence of poverty. As much as 46 percent rural households live below the poverty line compared to only 18 per cent urban households. The rural-urban disparity of is far higher than generally reflected in the traditional estimates of poverty. Traditional measure provides only conservative estimates of poverty; it also tends to obscure the differences in the incidence of poverty.

Alongside the rural-urban disparity at the national level, poverty is unequally distributed across the four provinces and across rural-urban population within each province. The study highlights these intra-provincial and rural-urban disparities within each province.

The highest incidence of poverty prevails in Balochistan where more than half (52 per cent) of the households are living under extreme poverty. Poverty in both KPK and Sindh, being 32 and 33 per cent respectively, is equal to the national average of 33 per cent. Punjab, however, appears to be the least poor province with only 19 per cent households living below the poverty line.

The study reveals that the four provinces also show very high rural-urban divide. Rural Balochistan has the highest incidence of poverty with three-quarters of its rural population (74 per cent) living below the poverty line. Urban poverty in Balochistan, despite being as high as 29 per cent, is significantly lower than the rural poverty in the province. The second highest rural-urban disparity is found in Sindh where 46 per cent rural households are poor compared to only 20 per cent urban households. KPK also exhibits a similar rural-urban gap; 43 per cent rural households are poor compared to 18 per cent urban households. Although significant, the rural-urban divide in Punjab is the lowest amongst all the provinces as 28 per cent rural households are poor in contrast to only 10 per cent urban households.

These statistics show the overall high incidence of poverty in Pakistan is differently distributed across provinces and rural/urban regions. “As provinces are very large administrative units, the real challenge of poverty reduction lies at the sub-provincial, district level”, the study says. It argues that the importance of district level analysis of poverty has increased in the post-18th Constitutional Amendment scenario wherein the provinces are responsible for the equitable distribution of resources among various regions and districts within their boundaries.

The study shows extremely high incidence of poverty in several districts of Balochistan and in some of the northern districts in KPK. District Kohistan in KPK and Musakhel in Balochistan are the two poorest districts of Pakistan. Majority of the districts in Balochistan have more than 60 per cent households living below poverty line. Districts adjacent to Kohistan in KPK also show very high incidence of poverty. Similarly, southern regions of both KPK and Punjab and southeast Sindh also have high incidence of poverty.

Northern Punjab appears to be the least poor region where several districts have very low incidence of poverty. KPK districts adjacent to Islamabad also reflect very low incidence of poverty. Similarly, a few districts in Sindh also show low levels of poverty.

There is also an apparent geographic concentration of poverty in certain regions that are poorer than others. With an exception of Musakhel, majority of the districts in the north have relatively low incidence of poverty. Poverty seems highly concentrated in the central and southwest part of Balochistan with the exception of Panjgur and Gwadar districts. Moreover, districts at the borders have higher incidence of poverty.

The highest incidence of poverty is seen in Musakhel district. With 88 per cent households falling below the poverty line, Musakhel is also the second poorest district of Pakistan. Three subsequent poorest districts like Washuk, Awaran and Dera Bugti have almost three quarters of the households in extreme poverty.

Kohistan is the poorest district of Pakistan where an overwhelmingly large proportion of population (89 per cent) lives in extreme poverty. Percentage of poor households in Kohistan is 26 points higher than that in the second poorest district of KPK, Shangla, where 63 per cent households are poor. The neighboring districts – Upper Dir, Batagram and Bonair – have more than half of the households as poor.

On the other hand, Haripur district is the least poor district of the province with only 11 per cent households falling below the poverty line. Next come Abbottabad and Nowshera where 18 per cent households live below the poverty line. All the three districts of Hazara Division (Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra) are amongst the least poor in KPK. Several districts in the central KPK such as Swabi, Peshawar and Charsadda are also amongst the least poor districts of the province. Importantly, despite being adjacent to the poorest northern region of KPK, district Chitral is amongst the least poor districts in the province with only 22 per cent households falling below the poverty line.

With only 19 per cent households below the poverty line, Punjab is the least poor province of the country. More than half of the southern province faces high incidence of poverty while very low level of poverty is observed in the northern districts of the province.

With 44 per cent households falling below the poverty line, Rajanpur has much higher incidence of poverty than the provincial average. Likewise, the neighboring Muzaffargarh district has 40 per cent households living under the conditions of poverty. The adjacent D.G. Khan district has almost two times higher incidence of poverty than the average poverty in Punjab.

Contrary to the cluster of districts with high incidence of poverty in the south, lower incidence of poverty is concentrated in the districts in northern Punjab. All the least poor districts of Punjab, which are also the least poor districts of Pakistan, are in northern Punjab. Jhelum has only three per cent households living under the conditions of poverty. Gujrat, Chakwal, Mandi Bahauddin and Gujranwala also have extremely low levels of poverty (four, five, six and seven per cent respectively).

The southeastern part of Sindh is the poorest region in the province. On the other hand, central Sindh is relatively less poor, whereas southwest of the province appears to be the least poor region.

District Tharparkar has the highest incidence of poverty in Sindh with 47 per cent households falling below the poverty line. Mirpur Khas is the second poorest district with 44 per cent poor households. Like in other provinces, high incidence of poverty is concentrated in the districts adjacent to Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas, such as Badin, Tando M Khan and Thatta. All these districts have more than 40 per cent of households falling below the poverty line.

Districts of Karachi and Noshero Feroz appear to be the least poor districts of the province with only 20 per cent households falling below the poverty line. Similarly, Hyderabad and Sukkur are the next least poor districts in the province with 25 per cent of households falling below the poverty line. Most of the 10 least poor districts are located in the central region of the province.

The highest incidence of inequality is found in Balochistan where 55 per cent of rural households are severely poor as compared to 12 per cent urban households. In KPK and Sindh, while severe poverty in urban population is only eight per cent, it is 29 and 34 per cent respectively for the rural households. In Punjab only four per cent of urban households are severely poor as compared to 18 per cent rural households.

Severe poverty is the highest in several districts of Balochistan and in some districts in KPK. Of the 20 districts with the highest ratio of poor households, 16 are in Balochistan. Similarly, mountainous region in northern KPK, particularly Kohistan and the adjacent districts, have very high ratio of extreme poverty. Severe poverty is also very high in southern regions of each of the four provinces.

On the other hand, severe poverty appears to be very low in northern Punjab and in the central parts of all the provinces. Of the 20 districts with the lowest ratio of poverty, 17 fall in Punjab, mostly in the northern region. This shows that severe poverty is clustered geographically.