Poverty deepens, gains of past 15 years at risk

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 03:31 Written by  Heart of Asia Published in Economy Read 198 times

Poverty in Afghanistan soared to 39 percent of the population in 2013-14 from 36 percent in 2011-12, meaning an additional 1.3 million Afghans were unable to satisfy basic food and non-food needs, a report said on Monday.

 

Poverty and unemployment increased in the three years after the start of international troops withdrawing in 2011 due to a sharp fall in growth and rise in insecurity, the joint report by the government and the World Bank said.

The report, including 2013-14 data, shows a dramatic deterioration in employment opportunities, especially in rural areas where joblessness rose by three times since 2012. In 2013-14, almost 2 million Afghans were unemployed; 60 percent of the unemployed were men and 74 percent of them were in rural areas.

According to the report, in 2013-14, one in three youth aged 14 to 24 were unemployed, and youth unemployment accounted for 46 percent of the total.

ShubhamChaudhuri, World Bank country director for Afghanistan, said: “This report shows a country where socio-economic progress is increasingly at risk and, although the latest data we have is from 2014, there is every reason to fear that poverty remains at high levels nowadays.

“We need therefore to redouble our efforts to ensure that economic growth reaches more Afghans and more is done to stop Afghan families from falling into or becoming trapped in poverty because of conflict, natural disasters, and economic events beyond their control.”

This second edition of the report said the intensifying conflict was making the already precarious lives of many Afghans even more vulnerable to unexpected setbacks, increasing the likelihood that poverty would be handed on to the next generation.

The economic and security crisis had once again underscored widening inequalities between Afghans who have the means to cope with shocks and those who must give up vital assets to stay alive, it added.

Women find it increasingly difficult gaining to access to education and health services. The poverty and inequality, if left unaddressed, could threaten progress attained over the past 15 years, the report warned.

Following are highlights of the report:

Poverty increased substantially from 36 percent in 2011-12 to 39 percent in 2013-14. As a result, 1.3 million more Afghans were unable to satisfy their basic needs.

Unemployment reached 26 percent in 2013-14 as fewer jobs were created and existing ones from the pre-transition phase were destroyed, hitting mostly youth, rural populations, and illiterate workers.

Progress in human development outcomes slowed down and girls’ primary school attendance declined markedly, especially in rural and conflict-affected areas.

Afghan households have been negatively affected by the crisis triggered by the security and political transition. The decline in aid and growth damaged jobs, and the escalation of conflict further intensified the vulnerability of the Afghan people.

The poverty challenge has emerged in all its strength during the transition period. Absolute poverty is increasing, with about 39 percent of Afghans now poor. There are not enough jobs to meet the needs of a fast-growing labor force and provide livelihoods to illiterate and unskilled Afghans.

Moreover, the diffusion and intensification of conflict helps perpetuate poverty down to future generations as children miss school and more families flee their homes.

The transition period between 2011-12 and 2013-14 leading to the 2014 elections and handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces was characterised by a severe slowdown in growth and a deterioration of living conditions for the Afghan people.

GDP growth slowed down from 1.3 percent in 2014 to .8 percent in 2015, and marginally improved to 1.2 percent in 2016. However, while the economy is expected to eventually rebound, growth will likely remain below the 8 percent required to fully employ Afghanistan’s growing labour force.