Wednesday, 27 January 2016

UN Development Programme Report 2015

UN Development Programme Report 2015  
January 27, 2016  Daily Times

 The 2015 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on January 26 has ranked Pakistan 147th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index and 121st out of 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.

It mentioned that only 19.3 percent of women reach secondary education compared to 46.1 percent of men, while female participation in the labour market is 24.6 percent compared to 82.9 percent for men. The report released on Tuesday called attention to the fact that the world was going through a rapid process of transformation, driven by technological progress, globalisation and environmental and demographic change, and this inevitably affects people in different ways, leaving some with the short end of the stick. Therefore, to counter this disparity what is needed is equitable and decent work for all, and the report calls on the government to address one of the world’s greatest development challenges. In this regard it proposes a three-pronged action agenda, most significantly, calling for a new social contract where policy formation is carried out while taking into consideration all members of society. It also urges acknowledgment of the importance of informal work, which includes unpaid voluntary work and creative work in policy formation.

While the report makes an important distinction between employment, which is restricted to the formal sector, and work, which includes formal and informal work, the statistics do not take this into account. For a developing economy like Pakistan, it is the informal sector that forms the major part of the labour market. Especially when analysing gender inequality, it is crucial to consider that an enormous part of women’s contribution to society is in the form of informal and unpaid work, such as care giving, housework and in rural areas agricultural work, which goes unrecognised.

Apart from this, the solution presented of the creation of a new social contract is idealistic to say the least, since the existing social contract that conceptually outlines the relationship between the state and citizen, where the former exists to serve the latter, has never come close to meeting the ground realities in which the state is predominantly an alienated power above society. There is a need to develop realistic objectives that will help counter the current paradigm. Moreover, the government needs to acknowledge the severity of the problem of female education that deprives such a large number of girls from acquiring even secondary level education. The most crucial problem here is access to education, first of all geographically, due to a dearth of school networks across the country, often making a daily journey exceptionally difficult for young girls, and also due to societal problems. Another key issue is the abysmal quality of education in the existing schools, which perpetuates not only negative views regarding education’s values among the lower classes but also widely held conservative attitudes towards women’s education, which is arguably the most fundamental issue. *

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