Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment with regard to Social Protection


With a persistently high level of poverty and much of its non-poor population at risk of falling into poverty (vulnerability), Pakistan aims to reinforce the effectiveness of its social protection sector. In July 2017, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), commissioned a study on local populations’ poverty, vulnerability and capacity to withstand shocks, as well as their recourse to existing social protection programmes, in four districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  provinces, with a view to supporting social protection approaches in those provinces.


The study was based on a random quantitative survey of 836 households – both poor and non-poor – in 41 rural and 15 urban locations in the four districts, in addition to 12 focus group discussions. Dimensions addressed were household economic data (e.g. assets, income, overseas remittances, occupation and unemployment, literacy, school enrolment and child labour), awareness of social protection programmes, existing coverage by such programmes, and incidence of shocks and households’ coping strategies. By combining these figures, a Vulnerability and Capacity Index (VCI) was calculated for each household interviewed. Using Jenk’s Natural Breaks Optimisation Method, these scores were classified into four groups: High, Medium and Low Vulnerability, and Resilient.

Findings and recommendations

39% to 65% of the surveyed households were designated as poor (using Asset Poverty). 62% of the surveyed population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 47% in Punjab was vulnerable to poverty against the national estimate of 53%. Both poverty and Vulnerability to Poverty were found to be much higher in rural areas. In three out of four districts, monthly income of poor households was around half that of non-poor households, with a high proportion of daily wage-earners. Between 31% and 52% of all households had been affected by economic, health or natural shocks in the preceding 10 years. Risk mitigation strategies included borrowing, sale of assets, use of own savings and reducing consumption – but not support from a social protection programme.

Only 13% to 19% of households reported having received any social protection in the last 5 years, and respondents overall were aware of or have availed only two such programmes: the Benazir Income Support Programme and the health card of the respective province. The VCI classification revealed a majority of High and Medium Vulnerability groups, 31% being highly vulnerable with only 14% of households categorised as ‘Resilient’. Revealing the vulnerability also of non-poor households, this finding motivates a recommendation to target social protection not only to those already poor but also to those at risk of falling into poverty. The other major recommendation is to significantly expand coverage and awareness of social protection schemes, including greater inclusion of workers in the informal sector.