The results of the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey 2019-20, conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), pinpoint serious gaps in the social sector. The study covered 176,790 households in the country for collecting information on facilities and services, like education, health and food insecurity.
The survey on education showed that the population of 10 years and older, who have ever attended school, at the national level was 60pc in 2019-20, compared to 62pc in 2014-15. Islamabad was at the top with 85pc, while Rawalpindi with 83pc, Korangi with 82pc, Abbotabad with 77pc and Gwadar with 60pc are the top most districts in their respective provinces. The districts which fared the poorest include Rajanpur with 40pc, Thatta with 26pc, Mohmand with 28pc and Dera Bugti, Shaheed Sikandarabad and Sherani with 14pc.
An important finding of the survey is that 32pc children are out of school in the country. The figure is for the year 2019-20, but the situation is the same now. The number of such children is higher in rural areas (37pc) as compared to urban areas (22pc). Punjab has the lowest number of out-of-school children (24pc) and Balochistan has the highest (47pc).
District-wise data shows that almost two-thirds districts of Punjab have less than 25pc out-of-school children; However, Chakwal and Narowal have the lowest number of out-of-school children with 9pc. Rajanpur is at bottom with 48pc. In Sindh, Karachi Central with 21pc is at top while Thatta with 71pc is at bottom in terms of out-of-school children. In KP, Abbottabad with 9pc is at top while Mohmand with 57pc is at bottom. In Balochistan, Nushki with 23pc is at top while Shaheed Sikandarabad with 76pc is at bottom.
As for the national literacy rate, the survey has revealed a dismal picture. The rate has remained stuck at 60pc in 2019-20, the same as in 2014-15. The literacy rate was 58pc in 2013-14. According to the report, the literacy rate for males increased to 71pc and that for females to 49pc. Encouragingly, among the youth population, the literacy rate increased to 72pc from 71pc in 2013-14. Youth literacy is 72pc at the national level. This proportion is higher in urban areas (84pc) than in rural areas (65pc). However, youth literacy is higher in males (79pc) than in females (65pc).
The district-wise comparison reflects an interesting pattern. In Punjab, Rawalpindi with 82pc is at top in literacy with Rajanpur with 42pc at bottom. In Sindh, Korangi with 84pc is at the top, while Tharparkar and Sujawal with 29pc are at bottom. In KP, Abbottabad with 74pc is at top while Mohmand with 26pc is at the lowest end. In Balochistan, Quetta with 64pc is at top while Shaheed Sikandarabad with 14pc is at bottom.
The PSLM survey shows that 33pc households in the country have access to the Internet, 93pc to mobile phones and 12pc to computers. Interestingly, 45pc of the population own mobile phones with at least one connection — 65pc male and 25pc female. Children aged 10 and above were found using mobile/smart phones in the 2019-20 survey. Nineteen per cent of them use the Internet — 24pc male and 14pc female.
Regarding the availability of water, 94pc households have access to improved sources of drinking water in 2019-20 as compared to 93pc in 2014-15. Improved sources include tap water, motor pump, hand pump, covered wells, bottled water, filtration plants and water delivered through tanker trucks.
Access to toilet facilities has improved, according to the survey. Now 83pc households have access to toilets, compared to 73pc in 2014-15. In Punjab, 89pc households have toilets, followed by 84pc in KP, 76pc in Sindh and 44pc in Balochistan.
The findings of the survey with regard to food security need to be taken seriously. Around 16.4 per cent households in the country have reported that they are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity.
The percentage of insecurity is based on how households suffer due to food shortages due to financial constraints and lack of access to nutritious food. According to the survey report, Balochistan witnessed the highest level of moderate or severe food insecurity at 29.84pc, followed by Sindh 18.45pc, Punjab 15.16pc and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 12.75pc.
The district-wise data shows that the highest level of moderate or severe food insecurity was recorded at 48.8pc in Barkhan and the lowest at 4.59pc in Gwadar, Balochistan. In Sindh, the highest level was recorded at 34.04pc in Kashmore and the lowest at 7.66pc in Khairpur.
In Punjab, the highest level of moderate or severe food insecurity was noted at 28.81pc in Kasur and the lowest at 4.18pc in Okara. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the highest level stood at 32.43pc in Tank and the lowest at 3.94pc in Shangla.
The household survey findings can prove to be an important tool for policy makers to plan for the future.