Afghanistan's Failing Economy Taking Afghans With It


Months after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, the country's economic prospects remain grim, with some estimates placing 97% of Afghans below the poverty line by mid-2022.

The latest Gallup data from Afghanistan offer a similarly bleak assessment, showing that Afghans surveyed as the Taliban took control in 2021 were almost universally struggling to get by on their household income. Most were finding it difficult to afford food, and almost no one saw their local economy as getting better. This situation is only likely to get worse as the effect of Russia's invasion of Ukraine ripples across global food markets.

The majority of Afghans (87%) said they were finding it "difficult" or "very difficult" to get by on their present household income. But hard economic times are not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan. Since 2017, no less than 84% of Afghans have reported they were finding it difficult to get by, and no more than 14% said they were getting by or living comfortably.

Since the Taliban took over the country in August, the value of Afghan currency has declined precipitously, losing as much as 11% of its value against the U.S. dollar in a single day in December. At the same time as the value of Afghans' money has dropped, unemployment has surged, with an estimated 500,000 Afghans having lost their jobs since the Taliban retook power.

According to the World Food Programme, food prices in Afghanistan have risen by nearly 40% in the past eight months. An estimated 95% of Afghans do not have enough to eat or enough money for food.

At the time of the survey, three in four Afghans (75%) said there had been times in the past 12 months that they did not have enough money for food. This is the highest level in Gallup's trend since 2008, though it is statistically similar to the 72% of Afghans who said the same in 2019.

In addition to lacking money for food, 58% of Afghans also reported lacking enough money for adequate shelter in the past 12 months. This is the highest level since 2008, when 64% of Afghans reported that they did not have enough money for shelter.

Afghans were also nearly universally pessimistic about where their economy is headed. A record-high 89% of Afghans said their local economy is getting worse. Afghans' pessimistic views of their local economy mirror the United Nations' prediction that the country's GDP will likely shrink by at least 20% after the Taliban's takeover.