The results of Dawn.com’s survey of reader sentiment regarding the economy are in, and they paint quite a gloomy picture of the state of the economy.
The non-scientific survey, which ran from Jun 2 to Jun 5, recorded the responses of 4,241 individuals from our online readership. Those who chose to participate in the voluntary survey were mostly residents of urban areas (89 per cent) and male (88.2pc), but represented all age groups and income brackets.
The survey participants were asked to answer a range of questions to gauge their perceptions of the state of Pakistan’s economy as well as offer a glimpse into how their personal financial situation may have changed and may be changing in the current conditions.
Participants also shared their strategies for dealing with changing financial circumstances and their thoughts on how secure they feel in their jobs given the current economic conditions.
State of the economy
Readers’ perceptions regarding the current state of the economy and the outlook for the future were overwhelmingly negative, with 86pc stating that they feel current economic conditions are ‘Poor’ and 11pc describing them as just ‘Fair’.
The future also did not offer hope to most of the respondents, with 97.5pc saying they were ‘Worried’ about the future of the economy. Of the total, more than 68.3pc said they were ‘Extremely Worried’ regarding Pakistan’s economic outlook, around 24.8pc saying they were ‘Quite Worried’, and 4.4pc saying they were ‘A Little Worried’.
Changing financial circumstances
An overwhelming number of respondents said their financial situation had been negatively impacted over the last year, as runaway inflation triggered by a soaring dollar and global commodity price super-cycle eroded the purchasing power of rupee-denominated incomes.
Close to 81.7pc of the respondents said their financial position had been negatively impacted over the past year, compared to 9.7pc who said they had actually done better. The rest reported no change in their situation.
Responses to a question asking how readers see their financial situation changing over the next year were also overwhelmingly negative, with 71.2pc saying they believe they will be worse off and 14.8pc saying they do not expect a change. The remaining 14pc said they expect things to get better for themselves.
Survey participants were asked how they would adjust their spending in reaction to high inflation, to which the top two responses were to a) cut down on expenses (chosen by 65pc of respondents) and b) find additional sources of income (chosen by 54.6pc of the respondents). Significantly, 21.3pc of respondents said they were unsure of how to adjust their financial decisions in case of high inflation.
When asked which of their expenses they were most likely to slash as inflation climbs higher, most respondents (73.2pc) said they would slash their spending on ‘shopping and personal items’. This was followed by spending on ‘entertainment and recreation’ (71.3pc), ‘food and dining out’ (69.4pc) and ‘travel’ (61.8pc). ‘Fuel costs’ (48.8pc), household ‘bills and utilities’ (35.9pc), credit car purchases (19.5pc) and car leases (17pc) were other major areas where readers said they would be looking to cut corners.
Job and financial security
Respondents were also asked about their current jobs and how secure they are feeling in the current climate. Most respondents (61.3pc) said there had been no changes at their current workplace in response to the changing economic conditions, while a significant 31.1pc said they had already started feeling the impact of the changing complexion of the economy. Only 7.7pc said there had been positive developments in their workplace with respect to the economy.
Tellingly, 44.1pc said they might lose their jobs in case the current economic turmoil ballooned into a major crisis, while 32.6pc were unsure whether their job or business would be secure. Only 23.3pc of the respondents felt secure enough in their jobs that they felt a major economic crisis may not impact them.
When asked if our readers had some kind of a plan to save and invest money, more than half (53pc) said they did not, but would like to create one. Around 29pc said they already had a plan in place. The remaining 18pc said they did not have one and would not be interested in knowing how to create it.
Bank accounts remained the most chosen option by readers when asked where they put their savings, accounting for some 46pc of all responses. Property was the second most popular vehicle, with 31.4pc of the readers saying they had invested in real estate.
Gold, which 16.7pc said they held, was the third most popular option. The findings show that most respondents had parked their savings in assets that yield little returns and minimal productivity, highlighting a key issue in the Pakistani economy.
Significantly, 23pc of the respondents said they do not park any of their savings in these commonly used vehicles.
We did a little digging around in the numbers to dig up these nuggets:
When we looked only at women’s responses from the survey, it turned out they feel more negatively about the economy than men do. Among women, 88.9pc said they would rate current economic conditions as ‘poor’, compared to 85.6pc of the men.
Likewise, 74pc of the women respondents said they were ‘extremely worried’ about the economic outlook compared to 67.5pc of the men.
Women respondents also reported feeling less confident or unsure about their job security than men (by four percentage points).
Interestingly, women who currently do not have a savings plan are far more interested than men in wanting to make one, with a 13 percentage points (ppts) gap between their responses and men’s response to that question. However, they are 6ppts less likely than men to have a savings plan.
Speaking of savings plans, only about one in five respondents below the age of 35 said they had one. That percentage rose to one in three respondents between the ages of 35 and 50, and two out of five respondents above the age of 50. This indicates that our readers tend to start saving much later in life than they should be.
For cryptocurrency enthusiasts: most readers who said they invest in cryptocurrencies reported ages between 25 to 50 years. Within that bracket, it is more popular among those aged 25-34 (42pc of the total) than those aged 35-50 (35pc of the total).
When asked how the respondent’s financial position had been impacted over the past year, those under 18 were the most optimistic, with only around 58pc saying they had been negatively impacted.
Those above 50 also felt relatively better off, with around 76pc saying they had been negatively impacted.
Dissatisfaction rates were highest (around 83pc) for those aged between 18 and 35. Those in this age bracket accounted for over 51pc of the responders – a number quite close to Pakistan’s current population makeup. This ought to worry political parties heading into the next elections.
People with household incomes of above Rs500,000 a month were more than twice as likely to report that their financial position had improved over the last year compared to individuals who earned up to Rs200,000 a month.
The higher the household income, the less negatively respondents said their financial situation had been impacted in the last year.
Relatedly, people earning between Rs300-500,000 were nearly twice as likely to report that there had been no change in their financial position compared to people earning up to Rs200,000 a month; while those earning more than Rs500,000 were four times as likely to do so. This indicates that any growth in wealth over the past year has flowed towards those who already have more, rather than towards those who need more.
Disclaimer: Dawn.com’s “Pakistan economic turmoil 2022 survey” was meant to gauge public sentiment regarding the state of the economy. Participation was voluntary and open to all visitors to the Dawn.com website between June 2, 2022 and June 5, 2022. The survey was not controlled and the sampled responses may not be representative of the larger population.