Nearshore Americas

Poverty Haunts Nearly Half of Latin Americans: UN Agency

As many as 167 million people (28% of the total population) in 19 Latin American countries are in the grip of poverty, while another 21 percent of the population is still vulnerable to poverty, says a new study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean.

The UN agency has warned that “poverty reduction has stalled since 2012 and extreme poverty is slightly on the rise.”

Figures show that a high percentage of people in situations of poverty and indigence in the region are part of the labor market. That means the income they receive is not enough to meet their needs. Women account for approximately 51% of the total population but they only access 38% of the total monetary income that people generate and earn.

According to calculations by the UN agency based on data from 17 Latin American countries from around 2013, wage income represents on average 80% of total household income; 74% of the total income of households in situations of poverty; and 64% in households in situations of indigence. The Commission also estimates that 18.9% of all employed people earn incomes that are below the poverty line.

Children, women, young people, older adults, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants are the groups that most suffer situations of discrimination, scarcity, deprivation of rights or vulnerability in the region, the report stated.

Earlier surveys showed that 7% of the population that is neither indigenous nor Afro-descendant is indigent or highly vulnerable to indigence, a percentage that rises to 11% in the case of Afro-descendants and to 18% among indigenous peoples.

Similarly, while 62% of the non-indigenous and non-Afro-descendant population was considered to be not vulnerable, this figure falls to 56% in the case of Afro-descendants and to just 33% among indigenous peoples.

“Of the different aspects of society that produce, exacerbate or mitigate inequalities, the most decisive is the world of work. It is there that most household income in Latin America and the Caribbean is generated, along with the inherent inequalities in its distribution,” the organization explains in the document.

The agency has asked governments in the region to redouble their efforts to strengthen and improve social policies and particularly the strategies to reduce poverty and extreme poverty, providing people with the tools that will guarantee their efficiency and effectiveness.

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“A world free of poverty cannot be achieved without substantially reducing inequality. Social issues are not played out in the social sphere alone, but also in the economy, politics and the environment,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, states in the document’s foreword.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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