The Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) is the longest-running and most comprehensive source of information about the social and economic situation of people in Afghanistan. With the results of the six successive surveys, the Central Statistics Organization of Afghanistan has provided the Government of Afghanistan, civil society, researchers and the international community with an increasingly wide array of national indicators and statistics that are required to monitor socio-economic development in Afghanistan. The survey produces information at national and provincial level and the 2016-17 round covered 19,838 households and 155,680 persons across the country. The ALCS is unique in the sense that it includes the nomadic Kuchi population of Afghanistan. Another distinguishing feature of the survey is the continuous data collection during a cycle of 12 months, which captures the seasonal variation in a range of indicators.
Afghanistan was one of the 193 countries to endorse the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015. This fifteen-year agenda (2015-2030) replaces the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) framework and guides the international community to achieve three main objectives: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect the planet. The ALCS is the main source for monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda in Afghanistan. The ALCS 2016-17 covered 20 indicators for 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Up to the present ALCS 2016-17, the successive surveys have recorded significant improvements in many development indicators (including, education, maternal health, water and sanitation), while other indicators (e.g. employment, poverty and food-security) have fluctuated over time. Alongside a continued improvement on some indicators, the present results indicate stagnation for many others. The most concerning among these are the indicators on education and gender equality. Moreover, the ALCS analysis reveals a continued process of farmland fragmentation, a worrying situation in Afghanistan’s labour market and large increases in food insecurity and poverty, compared to previous ALCS assessments.
The picture of stagnation and deterioration should be seen against the recent worsening of the security situation in the country, the large influx of returnees, the reduction of international presence in and aid to Afghanistan and macro-economic conditions. In addition, more structural factors continue to play a role in impeding development in the country, including the very low participation of women in the economy and in society in general, the low levels of education and skills in the country’s work force and the poor performance of the labour market.
Moreover, the very high fertility and population growth rates generate unsustainable conditions for development in the country. Analysis of the ALCS shows that these factors offset much of government and donor development efforts, and undermine the capacity of many households and individuals – in particular women and girls – to escape poverty and poor health. More and more people are reaching working age and entering the labour force, while the capacity of the labour market to provide jobs for them cannot keep up. Similarly, the rapid population growth also puts pressure on the education and health systems and on the amount of available arable land.