THE poverty profile of Pakistan reveals that districts having highest infant mortality rate, lowest literacy and highest poverty rate are in Punjab that also has the highest income inequality in the country.
Though Punjab is considered the most affluent province, however, recent research by creditable institutions reveals that few islands of prosperity in the province are surrounding acute poverty. The income disparity was high even a decade Ago that has been compounded by skewed distribution of resources during last one decade.
According to research by an economist of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, the national infant mortality rate are 78 deaths per thousand with Islamabad performing best at 38 deaths per thousand while the infant mortality in Sargodha district of Punjab is 98. Layyah another district in Punjab has literacy rate of 20 per cent that is less than half the national average. Highest income poverty in the country was also recorded in Layyah where 91 per cent of the people live below poverty line.
Punjab was the first province to evaluate poverty level in districts. The study was started during previous Shahbaz Sharif government and its findings were made public during the early years of Musharraf regime. The disparities observed between the different regions of the province a decade ago have not been reversed. In early 2000, a Punjab government document declared that Rajanpur district was the poorest district in Punjab followed by Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalnagar and Lodhran. All these districts are also located in the South or West and all had income poverty of 55 per cent or above. The yearly income in these districts was two to three times less than the affluent districts that are mostly located in Central or Northern Punjab.
A recent study conducted by Ali and others of the Lahore University of Management Science reveals that the incidence of poverty in South Punjab is 50.1 per cent. Districts in the South include Rahim Yar Khan, Bhawalpur, Bhawalnagar, Multan, Lodhran, Vehari and Khenwal. The percentage of population living in poverty in West Punjab is even higher at 52.1 per cent. Western districts include Mianawali, Khushab, Bhakkar, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Liyyah and Muzaffargarh. Compared to that, the incidence of poverty in Northern Punjab is only 21.31 per cent and the districts there include Rawalpindi, Chakkwal, Jehlum and Attock. The Central Punjab consisting of Lahore, Kasur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot and rest of the central Punjab districts have 28.76 per cent of the population living below poverty line.
The research also revealed that poverty status in various districts of Punjab is correlated to their deprivation index. The deprivation index is evaluated on the basis of education, housing quality, housing services (provision of utility services) and employment ratio. Those districts having low scores in these indicators are poor. The analysis also revealed that Rahim Yar Khan was ranked lowest among the 34 districts of Punjab in the Deprivation Index followed by 13 more districts of West and South Punjab. Rawalpindi was the least deprived district followed by Chakkwal, Lahore and Sialkot. Ranking of districts evaluated on social indicators such as immunization, under five mortality rate and ante natal care revealed same pattern with slight changes as Rajanpur was comparatively less served than Rahim Yar Khan that was ranked number 2. In the same way, Lahore was served better socially followed by Rawalpindi and Sialkot.
All the four regions of Punjab follow divergent socio-economic paths. While agriculture labour accounts for only 27 per cent of the workforce in North Punjab, it is 33 per cent in Central Punjab and 55 and 53 per cent in the Southern and Western Punjab. The percentage of boys that never enrol in schools is six per cent in north, 12 per cent in the centre, 30 per cent in the South and 27 per cent in the West Punjab. In case of girls, those that never got enrolled were 15 per cent in North, 23 per cent in Centre and 44 and 44.5 per cent in the Southern and western Punjab.