Even before the devastating floods of mid-2022, about one fifth of Pakistan's people were considered undernourished. The flood disaster destroyed people's livelihoods in vast areas of the country. According to United Nations figures, over 10 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity. In the districts affected by the flooding, over 3.5 million children are impacted by acute malnutrition (as at June 2023). Experts expect that the food crisis will worsen. In the first half of 2023, an earthquake, severe storms and a cyclone caused additional damage to the country's infrastructure and agriculture.
Child mortality has decreased continuously in Pakistan over the last few decades but continues to be high compared with other countries in the region. Nearly half of all deaths among under-five-year-olds are caused by malnutrition.
Inadequate services for a growing population
Each year, Pakistan's population grows by nearly two per cent. Almost 40 per cent of the country's inhabitants are below the age of 15. Government spending on health and education is too low to ensure universal provision of services. While the country's education system has improved in the past few years, there are still too many children who drop out of school or do not go to school at all. The illiteracy rate in Pakistan is over 40 per cent. Among women, it is as much as over 50 per cent.
Every year, nearly two million young people reach working age. But there are hardly any job and income opportunities that are in line with international environmental and social standards and contribute to sustainable economic growth. Some 70 per cent of Pakistan's workforce is employed in the informal sector. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has found the informal economy in Pakistan to be characterised by decent work deficits and challenges such as child and bonded labour, lack of rights at work, working poverty, and gender-based discrimination. Social protection systems are poorly developed and underfunded.
The country's elites are becoming more and more aware that there is a need to invest in education, occupational development, social protection, environmental sustainability and innovation. This is evident from the vocational training reform that is being implemented nationwide, the introduction of health insurance in selected districts, and the efforts to expand financial services for private individuals and enterprises.