The latest version of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ (PBS) flagship publication, Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) is out. It is not a piece of data that offers explosive details of price increase, or country’s debt, or such “newsy” items – therefore the absence of fanfare is understandable. But it is a particularly important document for researchers all around, local or foreign, as most estimates and forecasts around demography, consumption patterns, employment, and so on and so forth, are built around the HIES.
A lot of debate has surrounded of late on how the middle class has grown as a result of urbanization. That does not appear far from truth given the consumption trends. Three years is hardly a long time to observe dramatic changes in datasets of such kinds. The distribution of income and expenditure across the five quintiles, in relation to the population is largely a continuation of 2015- numbers, with a slight visible change in the rural trend.
What is rather striking is that the chart reads almost the same even when compared with the finding of HIES 2004-05. The lowest quintile had a 9 percent share in monthly income back in 2004-05, fast forward to 2018-19, and the lowest quintile has 8.6 percent share in income. That is some consistency. The same is true for the top quintile, with its share in income sliding only slightly from 44 percent back then to 43 percent now. Other quintiles too, have little apart.
The urban and rural divide is quite astonishing though – and has been for some time, yet worth a repeat mention. The 1st urban quintile representing 8 percent urban population has a 2.6 percent share in income – and the share has by and large stayed the same over the years. The highest quintile with 35 percent population has 62 percent of the urban income share – and that too has remained steady since 2004-05.
The rural income distribution appears far more evenly spread across quintiles. There are three income quintiles in the rural category with the share in population and income in proximity. The share of top quintile at 26 percent with 11 percent population is more lopsided than the urban distribution – but the disparity is much lower in quintiles 2-4 with an average income/population ratio close to 1.
The urban bottom quintiles are worse off than rural bottom quintiles in terms of oncome distribution. Same is the case with quintiles 2-4, where no urban quintile manages to come even close to having a proportionate share to population. The rural top quintile has significantly higher share in relation to its population and understandably so, given the farmland dynamics.
While one is at it, the PBS would also do well to have a close look at “Table 12” of the HIES 2018-19 and consider replacing it. A task of such magnitude is prone to errors, and overlooking, though unfortunate, is understandable. Without delving into much detail what’s wrong with the said Table, consider this. The urban household saving is up by some 4147 percent, whereas that for rural is up by 691 percent from HIES 2015-16. There is more that is wrong, but these numbers are just to indicate that the PBS should replace this with the correct numbers, before it starts getting quoted without being spotted.