After three and a half years of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, which came to power on the promise of creating 10 million jobs, unemployment remains Pakistanis’ second biggest concern after inflation, according to a new opinion poll.
Unemployment and inflation have been top concerns for Pakistanis since August 2019, according to the Ipsos survey – a market research firm with operations in 90 countries. The survey took place between February 24 and March 1.
The number of people considering inflation, unemployment and poverty as the problems of greatest concern is increasing.
For an overwhelming majority of respondents, inflation was the biggest concern. Compared to a year ago, 12% more respondents are now worried about inflation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced a relief package to offset the impact of inflation, but questions remain about its sustainability due to lack of funding. The government haphazardly implemented the relief program despite initial opposition from the Ministry of Finance.
Unemployment ranked second in the list of top five concerns, although the ratio was slightly lower than a year ago. About half of respondents said they themselves had lost their jobs or people they knew had been made redundant in the past year.
Poverty was the third biggest concern of Pakistanis.
The findings came at a time when the government was grappling with multiple challenges, including record crude oil prices since 2008 and a no-confidence move by the opposition.
Prime Minister Khan had come to power on a promise to create 10 million jobs and provide 5 million homes, but no significant progress could be made in delivering on those promises.
About 80% of respondents believe the country was heading in the wrong direction and that the situation had worsened by 7% in the past year, according to the opinion poll.
Only 8% of Pakistanis rated the current state of the economy as solid. Those who decisively rated it as weak have risen 14 percentage points over the past year.
Similarly, half of respondents say they see the economy remaining weak over the next six months.
People were asked about their confidence in the economy, their opinion on the current situation compared to the previous year, investment decisions, job prospects and the topics of most concern to them.
The coronavirus, which had crippled the Pakistani and global economies, no longer made the list of top five concerns expressed by Pakistani respondents, according to Ipsos. Rising electricity prices and the burden of additional taxes were the other two issues that bothered Pakistanis.
In January, the government imposed 360 billion rupees in additional taxes on top of a commitment with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise electricity prices by 2.80 rupees per unit.
Pakistan’s economic conditions have remained fragile in recent years and things have deteriorated further.
The survey results also confirmed that people’s personal financial situation has not improved much.
About 8% of Pakistanis rated their personal financial situation as strong. Nearly 42% of respondents said their personal financial situation was weak and the rest said it was neither strong nor weak.
For the next six months, around 55% of respondents say they will see no improvement in their personal finances. Fewer than one in five say they will see an improvement in their personal finances over the next six months.
The survey results revealed that consumers were not confident and hesitant to make investment decisions in addition to having doubts about saving and investing in their future.
An overwhelming majority of 86% were less confident about their job security. About 14% of survey respondents were confident in their job security – a ratio that had remained in the 15% to 26% range in the past.
Additionally, 84% of respondents felt less confident about their ability to save money and invest in their future. The remaining 16% were comfortable.
Compared to a year ago, around 87% of Pakistanis felt less comfortable buying major items like cars and houses.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8and2022.
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