2. Rural Poverty
Several estimates of rural poverty in Pakistan are available for the sixties and a few for the seventies. Most of them used data from the household income and expenditure surveys (HIES) available for selected years and made their estimates on the basis of a ‘poverty line’ determined according to some nutritional norm. Results from some of them are reported in Table 6.2. The differences in methodology and sources of data used in deriving these estimates render it almost impossible to draw any definite conclusion on the intertemporal behaviour of rural poverty. Even a uniform methodology and data source as in Naseem’s study yields different trends of poverty when alternative poverty lines are considered. The results of 1977 and 1979 are hardly comparable since the sample size and methodology of the two surveys are quite different.
Since Irfan and Amjad’s study provides estimates of poverty for several years between 1963/64 and 1979 (and thus covers the longest time span amongst the four sources quoted in Table 6.2), it may be useful to look at the trend in poverty revealed in it. According to this study, while between 1963/64 and 1969/70 there was a continuous worsening of the situation, an improvement occurred between the latter year and 1979. However, this improvement only brought back the incidence of rural poverty in Pakistan to the level of 1963/64. Since no fresh household survey has been carried out after 1979, it is not possible to update the above series. However, there are indications of improvement resulting from the outstanding performance in the recent past of the agriculture sector and the inflow of remittances from abroad. During 1978-1983, agriculture attained a growth rate of 4.4 per cent per annum in sharp contrast to 2.2 per cent observed during the earlier five years.1 The remittances which stood at $1,395 million in 1978/79 rose up to $2,850 million in 1982/83.2 Since most of the Pakistani labourers working abroad, particularly in the Middle East, belong to the low-income rural families, these remittances are expected to have raised the income of the relatively poorer section of rural population.3
Table 6.2 Incidence of Rural Poverty in Pakistan
Malnutrition is but one expression of poverty. Limited availability of the social services particularly education, health care, electricity, roads, and communications is another manifestation. The availability of these services when expressed in some measurable statistics is known as the quality of life index. The data on some of these indices, are reported in Table 63 for the years 1978/79 and 1982/83. The table suggests that over this period a considerable improvement has taken place in the quality of life of the rural population particularly in terms of access to electricity, clean water and sewerage facilities. Despite this, however, the level of literacy, enrolment of school-age population and access to safe drinking water, health services and electricity remains rather low and limited.
Table 6.3 Quality of Life Indices, Rural Pakistan
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