Addressing disparities post-Covid.

COVID-19 has exposed the inequalities that persist in terms of access to opportunities in Pakistan, largely stemming from gender, income and wealth inequalities.

When Covid-19 hit, there was a phase of rapid digitisation, during which only those with access to technology could operate. In Pakistan, where internet access is limited to 33 per cent of the population, with 76pc of this access further limited to four major cities, and where computer/ laptop/ tablets are owned by only 12pc of households, the digital divide widened economic inequalities.

Non-access to the internet and/or digital devices completely isolated the poor from online work and educational opportunities. Hence, Pakistan witnessed the knowledge gap widening due to unequal access to technology as online classes were conducted by only a handful of private schools. Most public schools and low-fee private schools remained closed during the lockdowns, leading to a hike in dropout rates as parents wanted to avoid paying fees.

The youth of Pakistan remained severely disadvantaged during this time. Lockdowns, slow growth and business closures reduced job opportunities for fresh graduates, causing a spike in the proportion of jobless graduates - from 36pc pre-pandemic to 37pc post-pandemic.

The healthcare sector crumbled under the weight of Covid-19. There was a severe deficiency of drugs and equipment needed for treatment. While the rich were able to afford access to private healthcare, the poor had to struggle trying to secure spots in designated healthcare centres, making Covid-19 up to 10 times more deadly for them.

Lockdowns, slow growth and business closures reduced job opportunities for new graduates.

During the lockdowns, the working population in Pakistan dropped from 35pc to 22pc. Approximately half the working population experienced job losses or a reduction in income; 74pc belonged to the informal sector. And 27.35pc did not get any income during this period.

During this time, mounting food prices, in conjunction with loss of income, raised the alarm of rising food insecurity. Supply chain disruptions and locust attacks in 2020 caused food prices to surge by a whopping 29pc.

Read more: Covid-19 and socio-economic disparities

Half of Pakistani households had to switch to a lower quality or quantity of food, and 60pc were unable to eat nutritious food. Severe food insecurity increased from 3pc in 2019 to 10pc during the lockdowns; meanwhile, moderate food insecurity rose...

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