Insecurity, Unemployment, and Corruption Drive Perceptions of Afghan People
November 14, 2012
On November 14, The Asia Foundation released the results of its eighth annual Survey of the Afghan People in Kabul and Washington, D.C. The survey is the most comprehensive and credible nationwide public opinion poll available to the Afghan Government, international donor community, NGOs, and other institutions working for the improved welfare of the Afghan people. In many ways, the survey findings reflect the more somber headlines coming out of Afghanistan daily: security and corruption continue to plague communities, and are sources of enormous concern. Despite these realities, the survey also reveals a strong yearning among Afghans for things like greater job opportunities and access to education which are direly needed to move their society forward.
This year’s survey included 6,290 face-to-face interviews with respondents in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, revealing perceptions of national mood, security, reconciliation and reintegration, economy, development and service delivery, government performance, corruption, political participation, the justice system, women and society, and access to information technology.
This year, 52 percent of respondents said the country is “moving in the right direction” (up from 46 percent last year). As in other years, some originally identified survey sampling points in 2012 had to be replaced for security reasons; thus, respondents living in highly insecure areas (who might be more pessimistic about the overall direction of the country) are likely to be underrepresented. When asked the reason for their optimism, security was cited 41 percent of the time. For the 31 percent who felt the country is “moving in the wrong direction,” insecurity was cited as the reason for their pessimism 39 percent of the time. Additionally, nearly half of the respondents (48%) stated that they feared for their personnel safety. Clearly perceptions of security are a major determinant of the national mood and sense of well-being.
Unemployment is also identified as one of the biggest problems at the local level, cited by 29 percent of respondents. Other critical local-level problems include lack of electricity (25%), roads (20%), and drinking water (18%). Lack of job opportunities is also cited as the second-largest problem facing women, behind access to education and illiteracy.
It is significant that unemployment shows up among the top three problems facing the country at the national and local levels and has increased over last year’s survey. This is indicative of growing economic challenges facing the country with a demographic “youth bulge” (the average age of the population is 16), an unemployment rate already at about 35 percent, and signs of an economic downturn evident in the growing loss of jobs dependent on international development spending, such as the Provincial Reconstruction Teams set up around the country to support development which are now closing. In addition, 50 percent of the respondents state that the financial situation of their household is the second-biggest determinate of their overall perception of well-being.
As in previous surveys conducted by the Foundation, corruption continues to be perceived as a major problem affecting confidence in government and personal well-being. This year, 87 percent of respondents cited corruption as a problem in their daily life, and 69 percent said that government was doing a “bad job” fighting corruption.
Despite these challenges in security, unemployment, and corruption for which the survey participants largely hold the government responsible, sympathy for armed, anti-government groups has dropped significantly, from 22 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2012. The most often cited reason for the drop in lack of sympathy is that armed opposition groups are perceived to be “killing innocent people.”
Opinions of security, employment, and corruption have the biggest impact on perceptions of national mood regarding government performance and personal well-being. While these three factors still present the biggest challenge to government, people recognize the government’s achievements in the areas of education, maintaining security in some areas, and general reconstruction. Most importantly, sympathy for armed opposition to the government continues to fall. As the Afghan Government takes control of the nation’s security, it will be even more critical that this sentiment continues in this direction.
The 2012 Survey was conducted with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Mark Kryzer is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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