In Pakistani society it is not uncommon that a person is born in a poor household, lives a life in abject poverty and begets another generation of impoverished persons. This vicious cycle often lasts unbearably long. Interestingly, for those who are at the top end of economic divide the cycle of wealth continues with same persistence. UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 include elimination of poverty and reduction of inequality in the developing countries but without tackling the issue of economic mobility no conclusive progress can be made on such goals. Even inequality can become bearable if there is a hope for every child born in poverty today to become a member of higher income group of society tomorrow. Milton Friedman, the great stalwart of neoliberal economic order, acknowledges that if two societies are equally unequal at any point in time but one is highly mobile, where the position of families in income hierarchy frequently changes, and the other is highly rigid, where families stay in same position over long periods, the society with higher economic mobility would be better. Unfortunately, Pakistan presents a case of a relatively more rigid society. Nothing can be more unfair than persistence of inferior economic status across the generations particularly in a society where equality of opportunity and social justice remain untold myths. Why the poor are destined to remain in the shackles of poverty? Why there is little hope for even their children to rise high in society? Just imagine — two children are born on a same day. One is a lucky offspring of a wealthy household and the other is born in a poor family. Knowing the dynamics of Pakistani society it is not difficult to predict their course of life. The wealthy child will get best available pre-school education followed by a high quality school and college education often culminating in a terminal degree from some prestigious foreign university. He will acquire valuable social skills and admirable cultural tastes. At some stage in life, the rich child is likely to receive parental gifts of valuable economic assets or he will inherit a large fortune. In a nutshell, the rich parents will equip their child with everything which he will need to maintain a high socio-economic status in during his future life. In the absence of altruism and concern for social justice, the privileged are inevitably destined to spend huge sums on buying a false sense of physical security while living in so-called islands of serenity Now look at the poor child. His parents neither afford a pre-school education nor do they know the value of such early investment in child. Even if he is fortunate enough that his parents decide to send him to school, most likely he will attend a government run school. There is a little chance of his completing high school education and access to higher education will remain a remote possibility. The French sociologist Pierre Bordieu argues that the lower-class children can be discouraged by school teachers who tell such children that they have no chance of going to a good college. With subdued ambition, poor education and absence of inherited wealth, the plausible outcome for a poor child is a life in poverty not much different from his parents. There may be hardly a few lucky outliers among the poor children. Such problems are obviously formidable but it is important that public intellectuals, academia and policy circles acknowledge their existence as unresolved questions of social justice. At least beginning of a debate in policy circles can ultimately help in finding some optimal solutions. Additionally, any such debate will at least refine the conception of social justice held by society. No other ideology can substitute social justice and welfare of citizens. Only a sensitized intelligentsia and policy elite can think about the nature and extent of redistributive measures and equality of opportunity at the expense of challenging status quo. For instance, progressive taxation on inherited wealth and parental gifts of assets is considered as one of the means of reducing economic immobility across the generations. But how far such taxation is acceptable in specific context of Pakistan? Without debate on such policy riddles, no headway can be hoped for. It is a widely held belief that state can assuage the disparities through investment in education and by introducing uniform curriculum in all schools. It is not plausible that state would opt for levelling down of elite private schools; the possible intervention can be to bring the public sector school curriculum at par with private sector schools. But in the absence of high quality teaching and other facilities, mere curriculum up gradation may not prove helpful. And then we must not forget the ground realities — roughly two million poorest of the poor children attend religious seminaries which allow little room for public policy intervention. And above all, the status conscious wealthy parents know how to ensure the position of their offspring at the top of economic ladder. Sir John Hills, a knighted inequality scholar at the London School of Economics, aptly argues that ‘In a highly unequal society, many advantaged parents will do all they can to ensure that their children do not slip down the economic ladder — they know that it goes a long way down’. This tendency is easily traceable in Pakistani society. Despite all the complexities and challenges associated with the perceived low economic mobility in Pakistan, it is a collective responsibility that the best possible and sincere efforts are made to make society more fair and just for everyone with particular focus on those who are stranded at the bottom of economic distribution for generations. In the absence of altruism and concern for social justice, the privileged are inevitably destined to spend huge sums on buying a false sense of physical security while living in so-called islands of serenity. The writer is a development policy analyst Published in Daily Times, May 4th 2018.