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White collar poverty

June 18, 2019

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PAKISTAN’s economic crisis is no secret to the world. The repercussions of economic policies [not] adopted are both tangible and intangible in nature. The monetary crisis faced by the people of Pakistan may be a tangible crisis but the way this crisis is going to affect society is intangible and to be realised in couple of years ahead.

The main consequence of the economic policies is the failure of the middle class to wake up from their already down trodden state. More specifically, the lower middle class bears the brunt of the inflationary pressures. Not only that, the salaried class has to face inflation without an increase in their salaries. Consequently they fall in the poverty trap — meaning that they step back from lower middle class to upper lower class. This crisis situation translates into what is known as invisible poverty.

This salaried class cannot get their children out of school to make ends meet but instead have to rely on amassing debt — a debt they will not be able to pay back anytime soon. Therefore, they start selling their properties for a paltry amount. First they sell gold, then comes a small plot of land they managed to buy in a faraway locality in the hope of building a house of their own someday and then the desperation calls for selling furniture for peanuts. This kind of poverty has many names — the World Bank’s 2003 report on poverty described it as white collar poverty. This kind of poverty is invisible because ‘how things seem’ is more noticeable than ‘how things are’. From the outside life goes on as is. The reality however, is different.

Sassi Bhutto
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2019