The Covid19 Pandemic and Food (In) Security in Pakistan

Pakistan continues to face numerous natural and manmade disasters, including catastrophic floods, earthquakes, droughts, war, and conflicts. The catastrophic wars in 1948, 1965 and 1999, the drought in 2013-15 to floods of 2010 affected almost 20 million people. Likewise, from 2007 onwards, the war on terrorism killed 52,000 civilians and erupted large-scale migration of around 1 million people from the conflicted areas of Pakistan[i]. Similarly, as the numbers of Covid19 cases continue to rise, reaching its peak by the end of March-April 202[ii], it is feared that the combined effects of the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns, followed by an infestation of the locust and other natural hazards (flooding) plummeted pre-existing vulnerabilities particularly the food security crises.

In our working research paper, we showed that the Corona pandemic, combined with other factors such floods, locust attack and delayed decision making, caused a nation-wide food insecurity crises, which can be averted, if proper policy interventions were taken. This blog summarized the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on agriculture sector, food security and human as follow:

  • An acute shortage of wheat which also turned into a major political issue. In addition to pandemic, the Locust outbreak in Pakistan (towards last part of 2019 and start of 2020) turned significant agricultural losses in the main crop production areas in Baluchistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces. According to the initial assessment damage to over 115 thousand hectares of crops including wheat, oil seed crops, cotton, gram, fruits and vegetables, besides grazing field losses[iii]. Other food items, such as chicken, milk, vegetables, pulses, also became expensive or vanished from the market, adding to the miseries of the majority. Shortages in these essential commodities had cause their prices to soar at the end of last year and the trend continued into the new year, which began with a bang in more ways than one. January inflation rate rose to 14.6 percent, from 12.6 percent during the previous month, reaching the highest level in 12 years of Pakistan.
  • This consistent price hike and shortages of essential food items propelled the crisis, declaring it as a “national food security crisis”—which can have a far-reaching impact on the population, especially those who are already marginalized.” In addition, it is also predicted that the farmers will be forced to liquidate their assets for survival[iv]. Similarly, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), placed Pakistan in a list of 45 countries requiring external assistance due to food insecurity. It mentioned pockets of population in immediate need including 1.4 million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees and 1.8 million Pakistanis in the administratively merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being in “crisis” and “emergency” phase in terms of food insecurity[v].
  • Likewise the average number of daily new cases has been rising sharply (over 12 percent) since the beginning of 2021. On April 30, the Government announced to impose a “complete lockdown” in 12 major cities to curb the spike in cases from May 8th. The effects of urgent and essential COVID-19 containment measures are having repercussions on the country’s already fragile employment situation and livelihood situation—as “most vulnerable groups susceptible to COVID-19 shocks include daily wage laborers (22 percent of all wage earners), internally or temporarily displaced persons, refugees, returnees, low income urban households, market-dependent rural households i.e. daily wages labors, elderly people, those already suffering from medical conditions, children and female-headed poor households.” [vi]. The wheat production in Pakistan also will suffer harshly, since 70 percent of the wheat harvest depends on traditional farm laborers, current containment measures in May 2021, will significantly hindered their ability to move and work during harvest, resulting in production losses. In addition, food supply chains—including provision of the agricultural and livestock inputs (seeds, vaccination, and fertilizers), agricultural machinery, seed/food storage, and transport facilities, followed by inadequate extension services will further disrupt the production and re-distributional channels.
  • The Livestock sector also witness huge loss due to COVID-19 pandemic. The small breeders and farmers have been affected largely, as livestock markets were closed until mid-April and the buying/selling of livestock was at a standstill. Additionally, farmers’ ability to access animal health services was hampered due to temporary closures of government and private sector animal husbandry services. Most significantly, the effects of COVID-19-related inter-provincial and inter-city transport restrictions is adversely impacting livestock products and the processing industry, such as milk and meat products, which could have detrimental repercussions on small businesses engaged in milk and meat supply chains. Last but not least, the ability of markets to supply a diverse range of staples, fruit and vegetables will also vary, creating price hikes in urban areas, which will further food crises and could reduce access to food for the most vulnerable households in Pakistan.
  • Additionally, the economic impact of pandemic will significantly affect the purchasing power of the most vulnerable population. Since a quarter of the population of Pakistan lives below the national poverty line and around 2/5 are multidimensional poor. Food insecurity is very high, with 20–30 percent of the population (40 to 62 million people) experiencing some form of food insecurity. An estimated 36.43 million people are persistently and chronically vulnerable to food insecurity and also highly exposed to natural hazards and shocks, including the ongoing pandemic. An additional 2.45 million people could become food insecure as a result of any medium-scale shock[vii] and rise in food price.  In year 2020, on the average, the food inflation, limited to seven most sensitive items measured on year-on-year basis was 17.57 percent in urban areas, and 21.30 percent the in rural areas[viii]. This rapid price increase of wheat grain and flour as well as other important food items, such as chicken, meat, milk, onions, and fruits could continue as long as governmental containment measures are in place. As a result, the purchasing power of the most vulnerable is likely to be significantly affected over the remainder of the year 2021-22, with potential repercussions on food security and nutrition situation of Pakistan. The Newly Merged Districts (NMDs) of Pakistan, which were formerly part of the Federally Administered Tribal Area, are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. According to the World Food Program (WFP), a majority of the households in the NMDs (65 percent) are dependent on unsustainable livelihood strategies (daily wages), while the remaining (35 percent) depend on somewhat sustainable sources[ix].
  • Similarly, the steep increase in power and gas prices every few months, punishing middle-income households that are already struggling to cope with the pandemic’s impact on their lives and livelihoods are not only increasing prices of food—consequently eroding the political capital and masses rebel to current government, as evidenced in the recent by-elections in different cities of Pakistan, where the ruling party was defeated badly[x].
  • Through the Federal and provincial Governments has adopted measures to safeguard financial stability, expanded refinancing schemes i.e. “package of 7.2 US$ billion as part of its immediate response to COVID-19. Fiscal measures by provincial governments include expanding the Ehsaas emergency program’s outreach from 5.2 million to 12 million households, providing a cash grant to 3 million daily wage laborers in the formal sector and providing food assistance to poor families at subsidized rates from utility stores. The Benazir Income Support Program is supporting 3 million households and the Government has enhanced their monthly stipend from PKR 2 000 (around 13 US$) to PKR 3 000 (around 20US$)”[xi]. Likewise, the governmental multi-sectorial relief packages including 600 million US$ for agriculture—supporting nearly half of the population of Pakistan engage in agriculture sector. Additionally, 1.69 billion US$ will be used to procure 8.2 million tons of wheat during the current season. The Punjab government has offered USD 905, 57640 worth of interest-free loans to farmers, crop insurance for 250 000 farmers and 1.2 million sacks of seeds for the next wheat crop.[xii]  However, as we witnessed in the past, majority of these stimulus or relief packages are considered to benefiting large farmers and female producers are largely ignored[xiii]. Likewise to curtail artificial price inflation by food hoarders, the government has promulgated COVID-19 (Prevention of Hoarding) Ordinance, 2020, to fine and jail traders who hoard essential items and create artificial shortage of goods.[xiv]

Key Recommendations

  1. In short term strategy, the government must re-direct budgets available within the provincial departments for provision of food packages comprising of essential items to vulnerable groups; and identify population pockets across the country suffering severe shortage of food; and build a strong price monitoring mechanism to curb the price hike and food hoarding. Similarly, the government, civil society and the private sector should join hands to ensure sustained supply of food packages in affected areas—re-directing corporate social responsibility budgets (CSR) in relief operations. These actors can also work on imparting awareness drives and media or on-ground campaigns on health and safety measures to reduce the risk of virus among rural communities—ensure SOPs, and protect the vulnerable farmers, markets, and their families from viral infections.
  2. In long run, the government should have rapid and efficient policy response and effective coordination between federal and provincial government. It must work on diversifying agricultural sector, and subsidize food items.  Additionally, to tackle the viral spread, federal and provincial department must strengthen the health system and establish a food production and supply surveillance mechanism. This system will monitor and evaluate the food production, distribution, and supply chains, to curtail food insecurity or nutritional situation of the country. Similarly, in collaboration with donors and UN organizations (i.e. WFP, UNDP, FAO), government can re-design existing farmer training and technology transfer initiatives, addressing the skill gap among vulnerable farmers—improving farming practices, storage, processing, and reduce post-harvest losses. It can also increase their marketing capacities, access to internet sources (selling their crops/products) and transportation, and storages, strengthening the market linkages between producer, suppliers and other market forces.

The Government along with bilateral organizations and monetary institutions (MFIs) can reevaluate existing stimulus packages (i.e. seed grants or interest free loans or insurance schemes) and direct them towards the small farmers and tenants, including female in the rural fraternity. The Crop/Livestock Insurance schemes can help vulnerable and small farmers/breeders to avoid negative spillover of the droughts. Floods, pandemic or other disasters.  In order to reduce rural poverty, Government can provide more and decent jobs in the rural economy, and extend the social protection to all, facilitating and promoting the formalization of the informal economy and labor rights amidst covid19 crises.

The federal government should lead a dialogue across the federating units to lift the ban on inter-provincial movement of cereal crops (i.e. wheat, Rice) and other essential food items. These restrictions only increase the prices and create an incentive to smuggle the goods out of the country. The federal government should also abolish the need for cabinet approval before import and export of food items and should allow open trade throughout the year. Likewise, both federal and provincial governments should withdraw from public procurement of wheat, sugar cane and other staple crops, but instead invest in strategic reserves of wheat and other crops to act as a buffer in the event of major supply disruption such as during pandemic or natural disaster.

The government must invest in advance technologies, i.e. Artificial Intelligence, remote sensing technology and satellite imaging for crop and disease monitoring. The government can initiate a public-private partnership—offering incentives and growth opportunities in the supply chain and value addition in agricultural and other food related sector. The private sector can also invest in farming, introducing and expanding modern agricultural practices, increasing agriculture growth and positively contribute toward GDP growth.

End Notes:

Full version of working paper is available at https://ms-researchhub.com/home/Research/msr-working-papers.html


[i] Abbasi, Nadia Mushtaq. Impact of Terrorism on Pakistan.  Strategic Studies 33, no. 2 (2013): 33-68.

[ii] National Command and Operation Center, Ministry of Health, Pakistan and World Health Organization’s dash board April 3, 2021

[iii] Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Economic Survey of Pakistan 2020. Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad p 31, ch 20. (2019-20)

[iv] UNDP Pakistan. Covid-19 – Pakistan Socioeconomic Impact Assessment & Response Plan. p 33. May 2020

[v] Food and Agricultural Organization FAO. Country Situational Analysis—Pakistan 2020

[vi] Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), p 11. December 2020, Islamabad

[vii] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 2020. Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Pakistan COVID-19 Pandemic. p 8. New York and Geneva.

[viii] Democracy Reporting International—Pakistan. Food Security in Pakistan During the Pandemic Year. DRI Policy Brief December 2020. p 8. 2020

[ix] World Food Program (WFP). Comprehensive Food Security and Livelihood Assessment 2020. Islamabad, Pakistan. 

[x] Pakistan’s People Party Media Cell. PTI Pathetic Performance. The News International (published May 3rd, 2021) 

[xi] Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), p 11. December 2020, Islamabad

[xii] Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). National agri-food systems and COVID-19 in Pakistan Effects, policy responses, and long-term implications April 2021.

[xiii] Drucza, Kristie, and Valentina Peveri. “Literature on gendered agriculture in Pakistan: Neglect of women’s contributions.” In Women’s Studies International Forum, pp. 185, 2018

[xiv] Zubair Q. COVID-19: 3-year jail term for hoarders of consumer items in Pakistan, The Gulf News published on 18th April 2021.

Bibliography:

  1. Abbasi, Nadia Mushtaq. Impact of Terrorism on Pakistan.  Strategic Studies 33, no. 2 (2013): 33-68. Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48527612.
  2. Democracy Reporting International—Pakistan. Food Security in Pakistan During the Pandemic Year. DRI Policy Brief December 2020. Available at https://democracy-reporting.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/DRI-Brief_Food-Security_small.pdf
  3. Drucza, Kristie, and Valentina Peveri. “Literature on gendered agriculture in Pakistan: Neglect of women’s contributions.” In Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 69, pp. 180-189. Pergamon, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2018.02.007
  4. Food and Agricultural Organization FAO. Country Situational Analysis—Pakistan 2020 Available at http://www.fao.org/pakistan/resources/in-depth/desert-locust-situation-in-pakistan/en/
  5. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). National agri-food systems and COVID-19 in Pakistan Effects, policy responses, and long-term implications April 2021.  Available at http://www.fao.org/3/cb1343en/CB1343EN.pdf
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019. Rome Italy. Available at http://www.fao.org/3/ca5162en/ca5162en.pdf
  7. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), p 11. December 2020, Islamabad. Available at http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/foodcoalition/docs/PAK_CB0224EN.pdf
  8. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), p 11. December 2020, Islamabad. Available at http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/foodcoalition/docs/PAK_CB0224EN.pdf
  9. Food and Agriculture Organization. Pakistan at a Glance 2019-20. http://www.fao.org/pakistan/our-office/pakistan-at-a-glance/en/
  10. Government of Pakistan. Labor Force Survey of 2017-18, Islamabad, Pakistan available at https://www.pbs.gov.pk/content/labour-force-survey-2017-18-annual-report
  11. Ministry of Ministry of National Food Security and Research. National Food Security Policy 2017.  Islamabad, Pakistan. Available at http://www.mnfsr.gov.pk/userfiles1/file/National%20Food%20Security%20Policy%20%202018%20(1).pdf
  12. National Command and Operation Center, Ministry of Health, Pakistan and World Health Organization’s dash board April 3, 2021 https://covid19.who.int/region/emro/country/pk
  13. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Economic Survey of Pakistan 2019. Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad p 3. Available at http://www.finance.gov.pk/survey/chapter_20/02_Agriculture.pdf
  14. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Economic Survey of Pakistan 2019-20. Ch 20, p 11. Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad p 3. Available at http://www.finance.gov.pk/survey/chapter_20/02_Agriculture.pdf
  15. Pakistan’s People Party Media Cell. PTI Pathetic Performance. The News International (published May 3rd, 2021)  Available at https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/829878-pathetic-performance
  16. UNDP Pakistan. Covid-19 – Pakistan Socioeconomic Impact Assessment & Response Plan. p 33. May 2020. Available at https://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/covid19/Pakistan%20-%20COVID-19%20Socio-economic%20Impact%20Assessment%20and%20Response%20Plan%201%20May%202020.pdf
  17. UNICEF. National Nutritional Survey Key Findings Report, 2018. United Nations International Children Emergency Funds New York. Available at https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/media/1951/file/Final%20Key%20Findings%20Report%202019.pdf  and https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/media/1951/file/Final%20Key%20Findings%20Report%202019.pdf
  18. United Nation Development Program Pakistan Multidimensional Poverty Index 2019. Ch 3, p 15.  Islamabad, Pakistan Available at https://www.undp.org/content/dam/pakistan/docs/MPI/MPI%204pager.pdf
  19. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 2020. Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Pakistan COVID-19 Pandemic. p 8. New York and Geneva. Available at https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/globalhumanitresponseplancovid19-200510.v1.pdf
  20. World Food Program (WFP). Comprehensive Food Security and Livelihood Assessment 2020. Islamabad, Pakistan.  https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000118584/download/?_ga=2.231621719.956883310.1620724030-1302007719.1620724030
  21. Zubair Q. COVID-19: 3-year jail term for hoarders of consumer items in Pakistan, The Gulf News published on 18th April 2021. https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/covid-19-3-year-jail-term-for-hoarders-of-consumer-items-in-pakistan-1.71047972

Human Resource Development in Pakistan—an obsessive quest?

With over 209 million populations, human capital is an indispensable asset for Pakistan. Besides increasing population, the country is experiencing a youth bulge, with the number of individuals entering the labor market over the upcoming years expanding at a faster rate than the total population. Hence creating enough jobs for a growing population, improve the quality and productivity of jobs, and enhance access to jobs and economic opportunities for youth, women and the disadvantaged, the government must take immediate steps to absorb the substantial number of young workers entering the labor force through investment on their education, and provide quality skills that can help them to find or create new jobs— consequently participate in the labor force for economic growth.

In addition to that, the country’s labor market will need robust policy and strategic measures, to fulfill the demand for the technical human skills of increasing investment activities in the country under CPEC project which is the main part of china “one belt one road” initiative project. In this short strategy paper, I provide an overview of HRD policy, gender and skill gaps, and future projection, with key strategic directions, that Pakistan need to adopt, in order to take benefit from the human capital resources for sustained economic growth. It also particularly emphasize improved standards of teaching and learning at all levels of education, in particular at the tertiary level to prepare itself for forthcoming industrial revolution 4.0.

The fragmented HRD policies in Pakistan

The country shows the most fragmented and politicizes HRD policies, as HRD in Pakistan is not properly addressed by both public and private (Corporate) sectors. Since its independence, the HRD has been the sole responsibility of the Federal government, which has faced 37 years of military dictatorship. Though, the public sector, after the 18th Constitutional amendment HRD is dealt at both federal and provincial level such as (1) planning and development division at federal level and planning and development department at the provincial level; (2) ministry of labor, manpower, and overseas Pakistanis at Federal level; (3) Labour and Human Resource Development Departments at the provincial level and other departments working on HRD are (4 ) the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) and; (5) National Vocational & Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC); (6) Technical Education and Vocational Training Authorities (TEVTA) at provincial level; and (7) Higher Education Commission. However, the still only 58% of Pakistan population is literate, and the majority of its works are in the informal sector (PBS, 2019-20). Similarly, there are about 188 educational institutions in Pakistan, among which only two are ranked in global competitiveness ranking. Pakistan is also among the worst performers in terms of technical and vocational education and training –Technical & Vocational Education Training (TVET). It should use an effective development and implementation strategy for TVET to harness its young potential. Performing Economies such as China, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Likewise, the funding allocations made on the social sector in the Five-Year Plans could not achieve desired results from time to time because of limited focus on health and education, which have a comparatively higher payoff in terms of HRD (Mahmood, Akhtar, & Butt, 2015). The policies for HRD have been formulated but the interdependence among these policies was ignored. The primary objective of education policies, pursued in Pakistan has been universal literacy but this objective has not been achieved. Small allocations for the social sectors in the past resulted in low human development. A high population growth rate with increasing unemployment has resulted in social tension. The access of poor people to education, health, employment, and other social services was not ensured. This has led to the deterioration of human development in Pakistan. As the Human Development Index (HDI), ranks Pakistan 154th out of 189 countries (UNDP, 2020), and the situation is getting worse, as less than 2.5 % of the budget is invested in the education and vocational training sector and out of this budget a very negligible budget is allocated for the HRD activities (Aftab 2007, World Bank 2013) .

Working Labor and Youth Bulge—Labor productivity in crises

Since, country’s working-age population, including youth, is growing, while dependency ratios are falling—demographic changes that tend to be favorable for growth (as shown in figure 1). While the labor force has grown more rapidly (by an average of 2.9 percent per year) than the working-age population growth, indicating an opportunistic condition in the labor market in Pakistan (Figure 2). But Pakistan is not benefiting from these promising trends amid the underutilization of human capital in the labor market. Total employment growth lags behind labor force growth, indicating that a large majority of people are underutilized or searching for jobs. The growth rates of non-agricultural employment and paid employment are only 1 and 4 percentage points greater than that of total employment. This also suggests slow job creation in the non-agricultural sector and paid employment, which typically are job-creating sectors in dynamic economies.

Compare to Bangladesh, where the ratio of the working- to non-working-age population is also growing, the labor market shows a far more rapid growth in non-agriculture wage employment than in total employment. In addition, real wage growth among paid employees has been growing by only 1.5 percent a year in Pakistan, which suggests modest improvement in the quality of jobs, or labor productivity. Female employment presents significant growth per year, in large part due to increases in labor market activities in rural areas.

Additionally, the country’s labor productivity needs to grow faster to increase the country’s competitiveness. Labor productivity, measured as GDP per person employed, is stagnant: its growth rate is the lowest in the region and far below the average of lower-middle-income countries (Figure 4, left). In comparator economies such as India and China, average labor productivity growth rates over 2003– 14 were 6.3 and 9.2 percent, respectively. In part due to low and stagnant labor productivity, Pakistan’s competitiveness in the export market seems to be lagging. While exports have driven economic growth and poverty reduction in the region, Pakistan’s exports of goods and services in 2015 were at about the same level as in 2004 (Figure 3).

Lower Skill trap, and gender inequality

Pakistan is stuck in a low-skills trap where employers settle for the kind of low skills readily available in the market. Its failure to break away from its dependence on low-skills, low-technology manufactured exports has been because of its low level of human resource development (Amjad, 2005; United Nations Development Programme, 2017). In 2018, the illiteracy rate of the working-age population (10 years or older) was 48.2 per cent (Labour Force Survey, 2018). While the Government has identified nine priority Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and anticipated job creation exceeding 800,000 (Government of Pakistan, 2018, 2019), however, there are no proper investment and planning to how to reach the demands for skills needed under these developmental project. The statistics on employment rates of skilled workers by occupation reinforce some of the earlier findings and highlight some specific challenges as well. Of all females employed, most were agricultural workers in both 2015 and 2018 and projections for 2021 indicate that 46.9 per cent of all working women would be agricultural workers (see Figure 4). Moreover, it is projected that 20.1 per cent of both men and women in employment in 2021 will occupy managerial roles. The data also show that there has been high employment growth between 2015 and 2018 for specific types of skilled workers – plant/machine operators (14 per cent) and technicians and associate professionals (10.6 per cent) – and modest growth of 5 per cent for professionals and craft and trade-related workers.

Recommendations

Pakistan needs to enhance investment, and particular emphasis on improved standards of teaching and learning at all levels of education, in particular at the tertiary level, if it is to leapfrog into the era of the fourth industrial revolution. Similarly, more emphasis on HRD and Entrepreneurship— as an investment in cultivating entrepreneurship and higher education institutions. The government, private sector and international development partners must facilitate start-ups, develop new skill development center, and provide grants, loans and act as intermediaries between students and HEI.

Pakistan should also build closer collaboration between the various systems – primary, secondary, higher level, vocational and skills training –enabling youth for the future world of work. Greater linkages between the education system and industry is also needed to address information failures in the labour market to improve links between employers and skilled. In addition to skills development, policies should address labor market imperfections and challenges.

Control on population and gender disparity—enabling women to participate in the labor market. Donors, industries and HEI along with international partners, should create inclusive programs on population control, and empower women. Apart from the government can introduce vocational programs and awareness campaigns about women’s legal rights at work, and how to access markets for quality employment and form interpersonal relations that encourage greater empowerment.

References

Aftab, S. 2007. An exploratory study of human resource development: A study focusing on the organizations of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Wah Region in Pakistan. International Review of Business Research Papers 3, no. 3: 36-55

Amjad, R. 2005 ‘Skills and Competitiveness: Can Pakistan break out of the low-level skills trap?’, The Pakistan Development Review, vol. 44, no. 4, part I, Winter 2005, pp. 387–409.

Bossavie, Laurent, Upasana Khadka, and Victoria Strokova. 2018. ”Pakistan: A Labor Market Overview.” A Background Paper for the Jobs Diagnostic. World Bank.

Farole, Thomas and Yoonyoung Cho. 2017. “Bangladesh Jobs Diagnostic”, Jobs Series: No. 9. World Bank, Washington, DC.

Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Economic Survey 2018–19, Finance Division, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, 2018.

Government of Pakistan, ‘SME Policy 2019’ (draft report), SMEDA, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad, 2019

Labour Force Survey. 2018.  Annual Labour Force Survey. Government of Pakistan, Islamabad.

Mahmood, E., Akhtar, M. M. S., & Butt, I. H. (2015). A Critical Review of the Evolution of Higher Education in Pakistan. Journal of Educational Research, 18(2), 57

PBS. 2019-20. Labour Force Survey. Islamabad: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics .

United Nations Development Programme, HDI Pakistan Status, UNDP, Islamabad, 2020

United Nations Development Programme, Pakistan National Human Development Report: Unleashing the potential of a young Pakistan, UNDP, Islamabad, 2017.

United Nations Development Programme, ‘Industrial & Skill Opportunities Under CPEC’ (draft report), UNDP Pakistan, Islamabad 2018.

World Bank. 2020. The World Development Report 2019 The Changing Nature of Work. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Demystifying De-globalization in Post-Covid World

“Society is never the same as the one that existed before the calamity. For good or ill, calamities are unquestionably the supreme disruptors and transformers of social organization and institutions.”(Pritim Sorokin)

The Covid19 pandemic invaded the world like a silent dark shadow. Originating as pneumonia alike disease in the city of Wuhan in China on December 31, 2019, the pandemic has completely paralyzed the world[1]. As of August 15, 2020, the pandemic infected almost 21 million people and caused close to 750,000 deaths worldwide[2]. It is argued that the viral spread has not only affected people’s health, but also the global economy with a rapid economic recession along with severe rising humanitarian crises and social changes[3]. Authors like John Gray, suggest that under this pandemic, globalization will come to end, resulting in more fragmented world[4]. The pandemic also “exposed fatal weaknesses in the economic system that was patched up after the 2008 financial crisis” says John gray. Likewise, the measures adopted or enforced to stop the spread the viral infection has changed the way people live and work, such as working remotely, online learning, pandating (sex, love and dating)[5], tele-health, and home entertainment[6], creating self-centralization, protectionism and strong nationalism, with close borders to contain the viral spread[7]. These abrupt changes imply that globalization is over, and the world is moving towards isolation instead of global cohesion. However, after conducting a secondary research on various aspects of de-globalization and the impact of covid19, it can be concluded that these predictions or changes never implies that globalization is going to die, or shift to small-scale localism, rather, it will reshape its features, scale and magnitude of globalization and societal changes in post-covid world.

We know that Globalization is a growing interdependence, and the recent pandemic shows how this interdependence could be driven relating to economies, culture and populations influenced by flows of people, information, money, media, trade and technology. While the economies globally are affected by the pandemic, with billions of dollars are lost in several industries, unemployment, closing borders and trading, and has an unrest in the society. However, several countries developed the coping mechanism and adopted this change.

Despite being severe in both scale and depth, one fortunate thing is that the pandemic occurred in today’s digital age[8] where we used advanced technologies as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, smart sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and location technologies, virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR), cloud computing, and autonomous systems[9], to mitigate its effects both on economy, society and human lives. While its true that pandemic like the Black Death or 1918 influenza had huge ramifications for the world afterwards, but which of these changes will have a lasting impact on society and ultimately globalization, and whether those previous pandemic ended the notion of “globalization”, we never see again, need a closer look.

The first argument lies in dissolving the traditional sources of social cohesion and political legitimacy and replacing them with the promise of rising economics and living standards through globalization and inter-dependencies. Socio-economic analysts like John Gray claiming “De-globalization” believe that this experiment has now run its course, as suppressing the virus necessitates an economic shutdown and immobility. However, such prepositions are supported by any ground realities or empirical evidence. Their main argument lies on the single notion of globally integrated capitalist system marked by relationships of domination between centre and periphery. But, it is far more complex and not merely an economic and political process, but also a social, cultural, and even environmental phenomenon.We know that, these shutdown can only be temporary, and even many world economies like China, South Korea, Pakistan performed well through “smart lockdown”, with little impact on global supply chain, an essence of globalization. Similarly, many countries begin to open their trading and will start visa services business across Asia and EU.

Second argument suggests that the pandemic will induce inequality, racial discrimination or xenophobia, consequently, collapsing the pluralistic world. As the early counts of deaths in the US showed that coronavirus killed far more black and Latino people in comparison to the percentage of population that they represent – as in New York City, the rate was twice as much for those populations than for white people[10]. Similarly, the rise in xenophobic attacks against Asian immigrants in Europe, Australia, and US also created unrest among nationals and government of these countries. . However, the “chronological account of the world shows that during 1853, the yellow-fever epidemic in the United States and European immigrants, who were perceived to be more vulnerable to the disease, were also primary targets of stigmatization”. During the SARS outbreak, which originated in China, East Asian bore the brunt. When the Ebola outbreak emerged in 2014, Africans were targeted[11]. Hence, it’s not the first time that people from the origin of a disease country are targeted and whether this means people from these countries or the government ended their trade with the US, Europe or Australia?

Even though no one can deny the fact that the COVID-19 thrive the negative effects on the health of minorities (Asian-American, latino and black) and other vulnerable groups, there are reasons for optimism as well. These include the emergence of mechanisms for reporting and tracking incidents of racial bias, increased awareness of racism’s insidious harms and subsequent civic and political engagement by the Asian American community, and building resilience-promoting factors that can reduce the negative health effects of racism. Likewise, in terms of the inequality, all those seem to be examples of immobility rather than changes during pandemic[12]. Indeed, humanity’s past experience with pandemics is telling when it comes to radical change. The record shows that “inequality can be disrupted with pandemics”, but only in those cases where it involves “massive death”. Such was the case with the fourteenth-century Black Death, which killed as much “a third of the population of Europe, whereby labour shortage resulting from the decimation of populations ended up doubling or tripling wages for ordinary farmers and craftsmen[13]. On other hand, the coronavirus pandemic seems to have prompted many national governments, INGOs and Financial institutions to timidly decide to dedicate larger resources to programs like employment retention, social safety net, care and social protection, making the mental and political shift towards valuing care, protection of indigenous, immigrants and marginalized communities. This is evident from several developed and developing countries such as Pakistan[14], China, South Korea[15], Spain[16] who spend even at much larger than ever in history.

Another argument is based on our recent experiences of the imposition of lockdown as a shock to the world free system- as people’s freedom or mobility is restricted, making us feel lonely or listless or anxious. But while “physically distanced”, the internet and social media have allowed us to reach into each other’s homes even more than ever. The estimates from We are Social (2020), showed an “increase of 7% in the use of the internet with respect to the previous year in 2019 in global terms, meaning 298 million new users, the growth in active users of social networks experienced a growth of 9.2% as compared to the 2019, which implies 321 million more users interacting in the networks.”[17] In Spain alone, it was calculated that Social media consumption increased by 55% where people were using these media to mingle with Spanish and other nationals[18]. Hence, the Social relationships for many seem not to have suffered. This new normal and social media have also allowed us to explore hobbies and interests we might never have had before – like the people turning to social media to solve real-life mysteries from their homes[19]. However, it is also important to maintain a balance between leveraging the science and technology, social media and protecting people’s privacy as it has been more challenging to trace the Covid-19 cases in the USA than in countries like China or South Korea due to varying nature of different privacy laws.[20]

Similarly, despite a great disruptive and painful, covid19 also invariably nurtures the emergence of great common purpose, solidarity, creativity, and improvisation. It not only prompted widespread expressions of mutual solidarity and support from States, civil society but at the individual level that transcended socioeconomic status and backgrounds. This pandemic also opened a little windows into how everybody else has responded and found their own coping mechanisms from addressing the shortages of commonplace items, or difficulties in getting out to the shops, health facilities or securing help, people came, joined the campaign both online and offline to serve the underserved communities (such as minorities, sex workers and transgenders), reinforcing global efforts to reduce marginalization and gender-biases. While people have not only accepted the restriction of “individual freedom on mobility” but, voluntarily and from deep conviction, practice consideration of their neighbor, who might be weaker and more vulnerable than they are, regardless of their religion, nationality or caste. “I am moved when I see how friendly and humane most people are acting in the COVID-19 crisis. That gives me hope, particularly as I had not expected so much community spirit” says the Bishop Ralf Meister from Germany[21].

Likewise, the perpetual rise in the incidences of divorce i.e. in China, provoke the notion that it happened only due to the pandemic. However, it wouldn’t be fair to completely blame coronavirus for an increase in divorce rates and relationship issues, as there are several other factors (age, incompatibility during summer breaks, holidays) as Neuropsychologist, Dr. Hafeez revealed that “many of her clients already knew they had issues in their marriage before COVID-19, and their problems only worsened during lockdown”[22]. Similarly, University of Washington research considered divorce rates to be“seasonal”; as when couples who do not live together may be forced to take long periods of time apart or re-evaluate wedding plans, which can create a new set of stressors and lead to breakups[23].

The pandemic perhaps also unlocked an inner creativity and resourcefulness of many communities, as many of us have more time on our hands these days, to start home gardening, Kitchening, allowing people of different nations, sharing foods recipes, books recommendation, and culture, reconnecting us with something that is increasingly lost in hectic modern life – from rebuilding personal relationship with intimate partners and families, to link with other people. In that sense, a vital priority ahead is an upscaling one: “to extend care from individual bodies to what allows them to persist: relationships, ecosystems, and the biosphere, the whole planet[24]” that consequently will support the idea of global citizenship and assert changing the features and scale of globalization after pandemic.

The pandemic will also positively shift in expectations and workplace culture, where employees are valued on how well they meet their deliverable targets on time, not how many hours they sit behind their desk in the office. Hence, workers no longer need to remain within commuting distance of the office, but can live wherever most convenient or desirable. And the knock-on effect of this would be “ residential property values dropping in major cities, and more people moving out into the suburbs or rural areas: a reversal of the trend seen since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution[25].

In conclusion, history demonstrates the dynamism and resilience of global connections despite the very catastrophes that globalization provoked. In the light of past experiences, it would be risky to predict deep renunciation of interconnection and interdependence. Since, even in the past, consequences of of such catastrophes disprove the assertions of those who prophesy globalization’s end, and major conflicts had provoked unprecedented global interactions. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic does not mean the end of globalization; it doesn’t even mean the beginning of de-globalization, but neo-globalization, reshaping its nature, at social, political, environmental fronts, countries will continue to adopt, learn from other each: a more global interdependence will continue to be a defining feature of our time.

End Notes


[1] Blackburn et al., Digital strategy in a time of crisis. McKinsey Digital, April 22, 2020

[2] Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

[3] Stoll, J.D. Crisis has jump-started America’s innovation engine: What took so long? Wall Street Journal, April 10. 2020

[4] John Gray, Why the crises is turning point in history? Published in New States Man, April 1, 2020 https://www.newstatesman.com/international/2020/04/why-crisis-turning-point-history

[5] The Economist. Pandating: coronavirus and the language of love. Published on July 15 2020 Available on https://www.economist.com/1843/2020/07/15/pandating-coronavirus-and-the-language-of-love

[6] Lee, S., & Trimi, S. Convergence innovation in the digital age and in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Journal of Business Research, forthcoming in 2020.

[7] Ibidi

[8] Guy, 2019; Trimi, 2020

[9] Tonby & Woezel. Could the next normal emerge from Asia? McKinsey & Company, April 8. 2020

[10] New York Times. Virus Is Twice as Deadly for Black and Latino People Than Whites in N.Y.C. Published on April 8, 2020

Retrieved online from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html

[12] Christos Zografos. Covid recovery and radical social change. Published online 7th July, 2020. The Ecologist. Available online at https://theecologist.org/2020/jul/07/covid-recovery-and-radical-social-change

[13] Evans, Richard J. “Epidemics and Revolutions: Cholera in Nineteenth-Century Europe.” Past & Present, no. 120 (1988): 123-46. Accessed November 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/650924.

[14] The News International. Pakistan ranked top in Asia for social protection amid Covid-19. Oct 6, 2020 Retrieved from https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/725452-pakistan-ranked-top-in-asia-for-social-protection-amid-covid-19

[16] Maria Dalli. The minimum vital income, a question of rights. 2020 retrieved from http://blogs.infolibre.es/alrevesyalderecho/?p=5781

[17] Hootsuite We are social. Digital 2020. [(accessed on 18 July 2020)];Abril Glob. Statshot Rep. 2020 Retrieved from: https://wearesocial.com/blog/2020/04/digital-around-the-world-in-april-2020

[18] Pérez-Escoda, A., Jiménez-Narros, C., Perlado-Lamo-de-Espinosa, M., & Pedrero-Esteban, L. M. (2020). Social Networks’ Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spain: Health Media vs. Healthcare Professionals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(14), 5261. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145261

[19] Frank Swain (2020). BBC Future. The people solving mysteries during lockdown. Available online https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200612-how-to-help-the-world-during-lockdown

[20] Chen, Z. COVID-19: A revelation – A reply to Ian Mitroff. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 156, 1-2. 2020

[21] COVID-19: New awareness of social cohesion growing in the crisis. Available online https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/covid-19-new-awareness-social-cohesion-growing-crisis

[22] Spectrum News New York. Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Created a Spike in Divorces? Available online at https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/06/27/has-the-coronavirus-pandemic-created-a-spike-divorces-

[23] University of Washington. Is Divorce Seasonal? UW Research Shows Biannual Spike in Divorce Filings. Published online 16 August, 2016. Available online https://www.newswise.com/articles/is-divorce-seasonal-uw-research-shows-biannual-spike-in-divorce-filings

[24] Nonunadimeno. La Vita Oltre La Pandemia. 2020 available on https://nonunadimeno.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/la-vita-oltre-la-pandemia/

[25] Ibidi

Bibliography

Blackburn et al., Digital strategy in a time of crisis. McKinsey Digital, April 22, 2020

Chen, Z. COVID-19: A revelation – A reply to Ian Mitroff. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 156, 1-2. 2020

Christos Zografos. Covid recovery and radical social change. Published online 7th July, 2020. The Ecologist. Available online at https://theecologist.org/2020/jul/07/covid-recovery-and-radical-social-change

COVID-19: New awareness of social cohesion growing in the crisis. Available online https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/covid-19-new-awareness-social-cohesion-growing-crisis

Evans, Richard J. “Epidemics and Revolutions: Cholera in Nineteenth-Century Europe.” Past & Present, no. 120 (1988): 123-46. Accessed November 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/650924.

Frank Swain (2020). BBC Future. The people solving mysteries during lockdown. Available online https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200612-how-to-help-the-world-during-lockdown

Guy, J. S. Digital technology, digital culture and the metric/nonmetric distinction. Technology Forecasting & Social Change, 145, 55-61. 2019.

Hootsuite We are social. Digital 2020. [(accessed on 18 July 2020)];Abril Glob. Statshot Rep. 2020 Retrieved from: https://wearesocial.com/blog/2020/04/digital-around-the-world-in-april-2020

John Gray, Why is the crisis a turning point in history? Published in New States Man, April 1, 2020 https://www.newstatesman.com/international/2020/04/why-crisis-turning-point-history

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

Lee, S., & Trimi, S. Convergence innovation in the digital age and in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, Journal of Business Research, forthcoming in 2020.

Maria Dalli. The minimum vital income, a question of rights. 2020 retrieved from http://blogs.infolibre.es/alrevesyalderecho/?p=5781

Mauro Testaverde. Social protection for migrants during the COVID-19 crisis: The right and smart choice. APRIL 28, 2020. Available online https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/social-protection-migrants-during-covid-19-crisis-right-and-smart-choice

New York Times. Virus Is Twice as Deadly for Black and Latino People Than Whites in N.Y.C. Published on April 8, 2020. Retrieved online from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html

Nonunadimeno. La Vita Oltre La Pandemia. 2020 available on https://nonunadimeno.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/la-vita-oltre-la-pandemia/

Pérez-Escoda, A., Jiménez-Narros, C., Perlado-Lamo-de-Espinosa, M., & Pedrero-Esteban, L. M. Social Networks’ Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spain: Health Media vs. Healthcare Professionals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(14), 5261. 2020 https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17145261

Spectrum News New York. Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Created a Spike in Divorces? Available online at https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2020/06/27/has-the-coronavirus-pandemic-created-a-spike-divorces-

Stoll, J.D. Crisis has jump-started America’s innovation engine: What took so long? Wall Street Journal, April 10. 2020

The Economist. Pandating: coronavirus and the language of love. Published on July 15 2020 Available on https://www.economist.com/1843/2020/07/15/pandating-coronavirus-and-the-language-of-love

The News International. Pakistan ranked top in Asia for social protection amid Covid-19. Oct 6, 2020 Retrieved from https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/725452-pakistan-ranked-top-in-asia-for-social-protection-amid-covid-19

Tonby & Woezel. Could the next normal emerge from Asia? McKinsey & Company, April 8. 2020

Trimi, S. Technology, innovation, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Decision Line, 51(3), 32-37. 2020

University of Washington. Is Divorce Seasonal? UW Research Shows Biannual Spike in Divorce Filings. Published online 16 August, 2016. Available online https://www.newswise.com/articles/is-divorce-seasonal-uw-research-shows-biannual-spike-in-divorce-filings

Log-linearisation in Short

Log-linearisation in Short with an example

There exist many different types of models of equations for which there exists no closed form solution. In these cases, we use a method known as log-linearisation. One example of these kinds of models are non-linear models like Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models. DSGE models are non-linear in both parameter and in variables. Because of this, solving and estimating these models is challenging.

Hence, we have to use approximations to the non-linear models. We have to make concessions in this, as some features of the models are lost, but the models become more manageable.

In the simplest terms, we first take the natural logs of the non-linear equations and then we linearise the logged difference equations about the steady state. Finally, we simplify the equations until we have linear equations where the variables are percentage deviations from the steady state. We use the steady state as that is the point where the economy ends up in the absence of future shocks.

Usually in the literature, the main part of estimation consisted of linearised models, but after the global financial crisis, more and more non-linear models are being used. Many discrete time dynamic economic problems require the use of log-linearisation.

There are several ways to do log-linearisation. Some examples of which, have been provided in the bibliography below.

One of the main methods is the application of Taylor Series expansion. Taylor’s theorem tells us that the first-order approximation of any arbitrary function is as below.

We can use this to log-linearise equations around the steady state. Since we would be log-linearising around the steady state, x* would be the steady state.

For example, let us consider a Cobb-Douglas production function and then take a log of the function.

The next step would be to apply Taylor Series Expansion and take the first order approximation.

Since we know that

Those parts of the function will cancel out. We are left with –

For notational ease, we define these terms as percentage deviation of x about x* where x* signifies the steady state.
Thus, we get

At last, we have log-linearised the Cobb-Douglas production function around the steady state.

Bibliography:
Sims, Eric (2011). Graduate Macro Theory II: Notes on Log-Linearization – 2011. Retrieved from https://www3.nd.edu/~esims1/log_linearization_sp12.pdf


Zietz, Joachim (2006). Log-Linearizing Around the Steady State: A Guide with Examples. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.951753.


McCandless, George (2008). The ABCs of RBCs: An Introduction to Dynamic Macroeconomic Models, Harvard University Press


Uhlig, Harald (1999). A Toolkit for Analyzing Nonlinear Dynamic Stochastic Models Easily, Computational Methods for the Study of Dynamic
Economies, Oxford University Press

COVID-19 and Digital Inequality: What role Telecom sector can play in Pakistan and beyond?

“While the internet is an important resource in efforts to stay informed and proceed with daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, these online approaches to reducing risk are not available to everyone in the same way. There are several challenges, Pakistan is confronting at the domestic front, however a less obvious, yet nonetheless an important, issue that the digital divide is complicating efforts to respond to the challenge of pandemic government and society face collectively. Indeed, a private sector, and especially Telecom, should come forward, during this pandemic, and finds ways to bridge the digital divide as quickly as possible through reliable and cost-effective (subsidize, affordable) internet and broadband services, which became a matter of life and death in Pakistan”

Like many other developing countries, the majority of Pakistani households do not have physical access to the internet, primarily due to low income and poverty. As per recent research of Digital Rights Foundation (2020)[i], internet access in Pakistan stands at around 35 percent, with 78 million broadband and 76 million mobile internet (3/4G) connections. According to the Inclusive Internet Index 2019[ii], Pakistan fell into the last quartile of index countries, ranking 76 out of a 100; particularly low on indicators pertaining to affordability[iii]. the broadband internet is not affordable for large segments of the population and many can only afford limited mobile internet packages. As more services move from offline to digital, it is evident that a new inequality trend-the digital gap is emerging, which can exacerbate the pandemic and human health situation, since a significant disadvantage(s) arises when it comes to accessing the real-time information people need to respond to COVID-19. This is a problem not only for people without broadband access, but also for society as a whole as we struggle to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

In Pakistan, besides the structural inequalities such as class, gender, location, ability, and ethnicity, the internet access is undercut by its affordability, and severe economic pressure during the pandemic, as more and more people are losing jobs, calling for an immediate response from donors, government and particularly service providers, the Telecom sector.

While, several other organizations, are trying to support marginalized communities, teachers, and students, I am curious whether the telecom sector has any plan to give relief to the people in the time of pandemic? The average cost of call and internet is neither subsidized nor any free data packages are announced via Corporate Social Responsibility. Here are some benefits of providing free access to the internet during the time of pandemic:

1. Reduce informational asymmetries between service providers and people in need (it includes NGOs, public sector organizations, and academic institutions)

2. Speed up or facilitating registration and data acquisition process for social safety nets and other relief operations

3. Help to connect with families for overseas relatives, students and provides social cushioning and mental relief in the time of panic and when social and mainstream media is creating sensitization.

4. Reduce internet poverty which may result in reducing informational blockages and/digital inequality, consequently improve families social and economic conditions. Because, freelancers and others have access to such internet facilities and they can work from home as well as reduce pressures on employers.

5. It also helps telecom by increasing their demand, and may enhance their profits as a proportion of society may opt for companies that have better and low-cost internet and call services, making them have more customers. Thus, we urge the Telco to come up to support and take a lead to reduce digital inequality and help communities to fight against the Corona virus pandemic.

However, the Government besides other measures and policy response, must also enable Telco to perform its duties unrestricted, ensure that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) assists and facilitate the Telco to increase the bandwidth capacity in Pakistan as a whole, but significantly, in the marginalize areas of Baluchistan, Federally administrated tribal areas and Gilgit-Baltistan. It also is imperative for government and Telco to ensure citizen’s privacy and Cyberthreats, and reduce vulnerable towards unreliable internet connections at a time when the internet is tied to essential services. Last but not least, the government and service providers should also ensure rapid response towards establishing and revisiting the existing infrastructure, since it may lead to slow-downs or malfunction during this increasing demand, and flow of data and information.


[1] Program Director, M&S Research Hub, Germany


[i] Joint Statement by Digital Rights Foundation and BoloBhi: The Digital Gap During the COVID-19 Pandemic is Exasperating, March 31, 2020, Inequalitieshttps://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/joint-statement-by-digital-rights-foundation-and-bolobhi-the-digital-gap-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-is-exasperating-inequalities/

[ii] Inclusive Internet Index (2019). Retrieved at https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/

Pakistan Hidden Treasure: Policy Agenda for Integrating People with Disabilities in Education and Development

In Pakistan, estimates of the number of persons living with disabilities (PwD) vary between 3.3m and 27m, depending on whether they are based on government statistics or estimated by other agencies or sources[1]. Although the country made early attempts to include persons with disabilities in the 1980s by introducing educational and employment policies, setting up special schools for persons with disabilities, and employing a quota-based system and levies, still these efforts proved to be ineffective, and People with disabilities (PwD) still have difficulty exercising their civil and political rights, attending quality schools and finding gainful employment. This ultimately means that they are being excluded as productive members of society, leading to economic losses of as much as US$11.9bn-15.4bn for Pakistan[2]. Since, most of the current policy and programmed-approaches to disability have largely been focused on rehabilitation, welfare, medical support or charity, the people with disabilities continue to face myriad challenges. Though, the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) in 2011, to include right-based approaches towards PwD, the progress around building an “inclusive education” instead of segregated “Special education” for PwD has been slow and ineffective.

When it comes to the educational facilities and policies for children with disabilities in Pakistan, they are at a two-fold disadvantage[3]. The recent estimates by UNESCO suggest that as many as 1.4 million children with disabilities are left without access to either inclusive or special schools[4]. While, the government strategy has been primarily to offer education for children and adults with disabilities in separate “Special schools”, there are several drawbacks, including that these facilities are inadequate and accessible to only a small proportion of children with disabilities. According to the British Council, “there are 330 special education schools in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. Most of these schools are in urban areas, which makes education for persons with disabilities in rural areas a challenge and 50% of children with disabilities have access to such schools. They are costly from a public budget standpoint and keep children excluded from the rest of society. Even if there is an “Access”, these special schools vary in the “quality of education” and often have inadequate support in terms of “pedagogy and lack of proper instructors/teachers”, making “quality a question mark”[5].

This exclusion has an economic cost too, as estimates from the World Bank, and Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that by 2018 the costs of exclusion of disabled persons from employment towards Pakistan’s could reach US$20bn a year. The current base is US$12bn, and these costs will continue to rise each year—that’s approximately US$5.5m per day, every day[6]. Other socio-economic reasons also come into play. Families may simply be too poor to send their children to either public or private school, or there are limited transport options where schools are far away. Beyond needing the means for schooling, the social stigma also leads many parents to withhold their children from available schooling and there is also a huge drop-out rate for children with disabilities. In the case of girls, families are too protective, as well as worried about safety and sexual harassment or violence (rape), when it comes to handicapped girls. There are also gender-biases, especially where families belong to ultra-conservative or marginalize communities from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, where even normal girls are withheld from education.

Therefore, considering a high drop-out rate, scarcity of teachers, insufficient resources, poor infrastructure, social and cultural practices, discriminatory stigmas, attitudes of the parents and difficulties in transitioning to higher levels of education, we need following key steps towards “inclusive education” strategies/program for persons with disabilities at Government and community level:

  1. Develop a comprehensive set of laws to protect the rights and dignity of persons, especially Children and Girls with disabilities in all aspects of living. This includes laws that protect them regardless of their age, gender or caste to discourage discrimination, provide inclusive education, improve educational infrastructure, build teacher’s capacities and transportation, use ICT4 Special Education and upgrade the curricula and quota system.
  2. Strengthen existing ministerial and government departments on special education, and develop a rigorous monitoring system to not only implement PwD’s laws and policies but use available resources wisely and evaluate their performance through key performance indicators. The existing mechanism has to be revamped both at Federal, provincial and local government levels and more representation should be given to the people with disabilities, so they can help in devising better policies and laws. It is also imperative that donors and other stakeholder resources and funds for education for PwD are maintained through external/internal evaluation and proper and regular monitoring is followed.
  3. In order to tackle access, and limited governmental resources to build new schools, the Pakistani government can use available resources through upgrading existing “stand-alone special schools” by integrating them into the “regular schooling system”in remotes areas. Since available Special education promotes segregation, but if the inclusive educational system is promoted, persons with disabilities can be taught in the same classroom as mainstream students, making educational services more accessible and affordable. However, the government must ensure that traditional schools are equipped with proper facilities, resources and ensure effective training of instructors to teach PwD.
  4. The government should invest in school capacity development, and utilizing youth, which can offer summer schools for PwD. Similarly, changes in school infrastructure and investment in better teacher training is equally significant to reduce disparities towards PwD.
  5. Similarly, Innovative community-based mechanisms can also reduce the burden on the government. There are successful examples in Pakistan, such as the using digital technologies/ICT to educate people with disabilities[7] distance and e-learning programs[8], as well as the Lady Health Worker Programme and several similar community-based mechanisms, which can help in educating PwD, building awareness, changing attitudes and driving change as well as reaching marginalize communities and to serve/educate PwD in a cost-effective way.
  6. At the Community level, government and community-based organizations, can work with religious leaders, Maddaris(religious schools), and non-formal educational facilities can be utilize to cater needs of education for PwD. Mosques can be used for “workshop along with worship” as they are frequently available and can be used for “people Welfare. These available resources also need proper mechanisms and facilities through citizen-government initiatives.
  7. The existing Disabled people’s organizations (DPOs)[9] need to work together with government, private organizations, schools such as Allied/ Bacon House School System and local communities to ensure a united front that communicates change from a rights-based approach. These DPOs largely focused on a charity or medical aid, which are both important services, especially where the government falls short, however, there needs to be better awareness of communities, reducing parental biases, stigmas and fears the need for broader change.
  8. Last but not least, to improve the economic condition of the families having people with disabilities, government, Non-profit organizations, corporations (as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility CSR) and DPOs should focus on enhancing such families economic resources, provide them social safety nets and other employments, so they can invest in their children and PwD more effectively.

In conclusion, inclusive, adaptive and innovative mechanisms supported at government and community level, will further efforts to achieve the educational outcomes for the people with disabilities and improve their status in contributing towards Pakistan’s economy as a productive member.


[1] The Economist; Intelligence Unit, Moving from the Margins; August 2014 and Information from the National Forum Supporting Women with Disabilities Emerging Concept of Women with Disabilities

[2] Moving from the margins: Mainstreaming persons with disabilities in Pakistan – produced in 2014  by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the British Council

[3] Ibd

[4] Daily times (2014). 1.4m disabled Pakistani children have no access to schools says Dr. Kozue Kay Nagata, Director UNESCO Islamabad. Available on http://unesco.org.pk/education/documents/2014/efa_week/national_forum/pc_DailyTimes.pdf

[5] Ibd

[6] Ibd

[7] See for instance “ICT and AT4DPwDs” at http://ict4dpwd.ning.com and www.telecentre.org/group/telecentrefordisabilities.providing some successful apps and technologies mainstreaming education for PwD.

[8] Helping the disabled: AIOU opens e-learning centre for visually impaired. Published in Express Tribune, Oct. 26th, 2015. Retrieved at https://tribune.com.pk/story/979070/helping-the-disabled-aiou-opens-e-learning-centre-for-visually-impaired/?amp=1

[9] Disability organizations in Pakistan. Available at https://disabilityict4d.wordpress.com/pakistan/

Building Traditional Food Knowledge: An approach to Food Security through North-South dialogue.

  • A forthcoming book chapter as part of compiled book (2020) on ´´Food (In) Security in the Arctic: Contribution of Traditional and Local Food to promote Food Security´´. The book chapter cites recommendations to inform policy on food (in) Security .It discusses a special focus on the inclusion of indigenous communities in integrated resource management processes; where the use of local knowledge in addressing food security is explored. The inclusion of resource dependent communities in processes of spatial planning, integrated natural resource management is discussed. Bio cultural diversity is briefly discussed within the context of perceptions and governance practices in relation to regimes of dynamic, changing societal influences including social-spatial, political and socio-economic processes, linked to globalization that influence dynamics in food security in the global north and south. Key messages arise within the empirical survey that raise important issues on food security and governance linked to the bio cultural diversity web. It raises issues related to Indigenous populations which have through the years made a case of their engagement with the bio cultural web through land governance approaches in the provision of secure regimes of food. 
  • For more information on book project, see link: https://www.arcticcentre.org/EN/projects/foodsecurity