Afghanistan Poverty Status Update – Progress at Risk


  • Poverty increased substantially from 36 percent in 2011-12 to 39 percent in 2013-14. As a result, 1.3 million more Afghans were unable to satisfy their basic needs.
  • Unemployment reached 22.6 percent in 2013-14 as fewer jobs were created and existing ones from the pre-transition phase were destroyed, hitting mostly youth, rural populations, and illiterate workers.
  • Progress in human development outcomes slowed down and girls’ primary school attendance declined markedly, especially in rural and conflict-affected areas.

May 08, 2017 – The second edition of the Poverty Status Update report, a joint effort of the Government of Afghanistan and the World Bank, shows that socio-economic progress is increasingly at risk in Afghanistan.

Afghan households have been negatively affected by the crisis triggered by the security and political transition. The decline in aid and growth damaged jobs, and the escalation of conflict further intensified the vulnerability of the Afghan people.

The poverty challenge has emerged in all its strength during the transition period. Absolute poverty is increasing, with about 39 percent of Afghans now poor. There are not enough jobs to meet the needs of a fast-growing labor force and provide livelihoods to illiterate and unskilled Afghans.

Moreover, the diffusion and intensification of conflict helps perpetuate poverty down to future generations as children miss school and more families flee their homes. 

" The transition period between 2011-12 and 2013-14 leading to the 2014 elections and handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces was characterized by a severe slowdown in growth and a deterioration of living conditions for the Afghan people. "

The economic and security crisis has accentuated deep and widening inequalities between those who have the means to cope with shocks and those who must give up vital assets to stay alive.

Urban Afghans are safer and have better access to services and economic opportunities than those living in rural areas. Inequalities also persist between Afghan men and women, who increasingly find it difficult to access education and health services.  Left unattended, poverty and inequality can further undermine social cohesion and jeopardize progress attained in the past 15 years.

GDP growth slowed down from 1.3 percent in 2014 to .8 percent in 2015, and marginally improved to 1.2 percent in 2016. However, while the economy is expected to eventually rebound, growth will likely remain below the 8 percent required to fully employ Afghanistan’s growing labor force. Meanwhile, conflict and fragility will likely continue constraining Afghanistan’s development and progress toward reducing poverty. 


With growth unlikely to reach its pre-transition high levels, the report provides insights on how to best weather the challenges ahead:

  • Focusing on more inclusive growth than in the past, especially for agriculture, and improving access to markets and rural-urban linkages.
  • Helping Afghans, especially youth, to find jobs. With 400,000 youth entering the labor market every year, efforts to support legal channels for economic migration abroad must accompany labor-intensive growth in Afghanistan.
  • Maintaining focus on education and health outcomes by increasing access to services. The main challenges will be to increase service delivery during conflict and to close inequalities in accessing services between poor and non-poor Afghans, and between cities and rural areas.
  • Helping Afghan households cope with shocks and reducing their vulnerability to becoming trapped into poverty as a consequence of conflict, natural disasters, and economic events beyond their control.