Written by Maryam Habib and Dr. Muhammad Asim
Inequalities in income, education, health, and other social indicators continue to persist across countries, hindering the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among the SDGs, Goal 10 emphasizes reducing inequalities within and among countries. In this essay, we will examine the Inequality Index and Human Development Index as reliable measures of inequalities in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and suggest some steps that the governments of these countries can take to reduce inequalities and promote inclusive growth.
Inequalities in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
The Inequality Index and Human Development Index provide insights into the level of inequalities and overall well-being in a country. The Inequality Index, which is a composite measure of income and gender inequalities, ranks Iran at 78th, Pakistan at 112th, and Afghanistan at 146th among 158 countries in 2021. The Human Development Index, on the other hand, measures countries’ progress in achieving a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. According to the latest Human Development Report, Iran ranks at 69, Pakistan at 154, and Afghanistan at 170 out of 189 countries.
Steps to Reduce Inequalities
To reduce inequalities in these countries, the governments can take the following steps:
- Investing in education and healthcare: Investing in education and healthcare can help improve access and quality for marginalized groups and reduce inequalities in these areas. This investment can be focused on areas where access is limited, such as rural and remote regions.
- Implementing policies and programs: Implementing policies and programs that target poverty reduction, including social safety nets and cash transfer programs, can help reduce economic inequalities. The governments can also develop and implement programs that support small and medium-sized enterprises, which can create employment opportunities and stimulate economic growth.
- Strengthening labor market policies: Addressing issues such as informal employment, discrimination, and gender disparities can help reduce inequalities in the labor market. Governments can adopt policies that promote decent work, fair wages, and equal opportunities for all.
- Promoting gender equality: Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment can help reduce gender-based inequalities. The governments can adopt legal and policy reforms that support gender equality and develop targeted programs that focus on improving the access of women to education, healthcare, and employment.
- Improving access to basic infrastructure: Improving access to basic infrastructure such as water, sanitation, and electricity in marginalized areas can help reduce inequalities in access to basic services.
- Opportunities for Economic Growth and Job Creation: A jointly administered market at the tri-borderland between Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan could provide opportunities for economic growth and job creation, which could further lead to the reduction of inequalities. By developing cross-border trade and investment, sharing knowledge and resources, and building common infrastructure, the region could create a more favorable environment for economic development and innovation. However, to ensure that the benefits of such initiatives are shared equitably among all segments of society, including marginalized groups, a focus on inclusive policies and programs, as well as strong governance mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability, would be required.
Achieving the targets of SDG 10 requires a concerted effort by governments, international organizations, civil society, and individuals. By investing in education and healthcare, implementing poverty reduction programs, promoting gender equality, improving access to basic infrastructure, and developing cross-border initiatives, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan can reduce inequalities and promote inclusive growth. However, it is important to acknowledge that reducing inequalities is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous process that requires sustained political will and commitment. By prioritizing the SDG 10 targets, these countries can move closer to creating a fair and just society for all their citizens.