Rising Inequality in Pakistan

Rising inequality is a global phenomenon. Oxfam’s briefings paper ‘an economy for the 99%’ reports only eight men today have the same wealth as 3.6 billion world’s people. In the last three decades seven out of ten people living in a country have been facing inequality. Also the report mentions that in the next 25 years, the world will have a first trillionaire.

Besides this, every year economically stagnated countries cost $1000 billion in the shape of corporate tax dodging. This huge sum can provide education to 124 million children and prevent the deaths of at least 6 million children globally. On the other hand, global inequality has devastating consequences for low income countries like Pakistan.

The per capita income of Pakistan is $1629. Poor families can bear the cost of food, health, shelter, education and other fundamental needs for one year. Meanwhile, Bangladesh – a young country, has seen an increase of up to $1602 in its per capita income. It is very close to Pakistan.

Oxfam’s another report ‘Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI)’ ranks Pakistan at number 139 out of 152 countries. In spending on education, health and social protection, it is ranked on 146; progressive taxation is ranked at number 98 and in labour rights is ranked at number 118.

According to development experts of Pakistan, between 1998-99 and 2013-14 consumption-based poverty fell from 57.9pc to 29.5pc. Multidimensional poverty that comprises education, health and living standards has dropped from 55.2pc to 38.8pc between 2004-5 and 2014-15.

In addition, during 2013-14, the Gini coefficient was 0.41 and in the years 1987-88, it was 0.35. Besides, the richest 20pc in Pakistan spend seven times more than the poorest 20pc.

Currently, our country is on the trajectory of high economic deficit. This has caused 35pc people to live below the poverty line, around 22.4 million children are out of school, and 45pc are stunted.

Moreover, women’s unpaid care work is not measured in any data. They are not paid equal wages. Around 63pc youth spend their life impractically.

Income and wealth inequality is from top to bottom. Only 22 persons in the country have billions of wealth and reserves. The rest spend their life in hunger and poverty.

Education and health infrastructures are on the verge of collapse. Institutions are rotten. Moral and ethical values are decaying.

In addition, extreme inequalities cause rampant corruption in the society, obstruct economic growth, irregular wealth and income distribution, moral and ethical iniquities, and adversely affect labor and human rights.

This portrays an intimidating picture of the country’s overall economic scenario.

Civil society organizations (CSOs), public sector organizations and INGOs in Pakistan are working more on issues like poverty, gender disparity, water, food rights etc. Thus far the root cause of all these issues ‘inequality’ is untouched and un-debated.

Undoubtedly inequality is a highly political debate, as is entrenched in government policies and institutions. However it needs to be triggered with people, civil society, policy makers and parliamentarians to initiate discourse in the country.

Inequality needs to be controlled now. CRI index shows that some African countries through spending on education, health and social protection have controlled inequality.

The government needs to increase spending on education, health, and social protection, and to provide equal labor wages – both men and women. The government should revamp and reform taxation system – to bring progressive and just tax systems.


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