The number of people living in poverty in Latin America has been declining. However, the pace of that decrease has slowed sharply after a decade of progress, according to the latest study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
As of today, as many as 164 million Latin Americans are living in poverty, 27.9% of the population. Of these, 68 million are in extreme poverty (11.5% of the region’s inhabitants).
The poverty rate remained stable in 2013 compared to 2012, although the percentage of the population fell slightly (0.3%). In contrast, the number of extreme poor, which totaled 66 million in 2012, climbed to 68 million in 2013 (a 0.2% increase), the report says.
The ECLAC has blamed rising food costs and general inflation for the increase in extreme poverty.
“Since 2002 poverty in Latin America has fallen 15.7 percentage points and extreme poverty 8.0 points, but recent figures show a slowdown. The only acceptable number of people living in poverty is zero, which is why we call on countries to carry out structural economic changes to achieve sustained growth with greater equality,” said Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of ECLAC.
Six of 11 countries with available information in 2012 showed reductions in their poverty levels compared to 2011. In Venezuela, the rate fell to 23.9 % from 29.5 %; in Ecuador it declined to 32.2 % from 35.3 %; in Brazil to 18.6 % from 20.9 %; in Peru to 25.8 % from 27.8 %; in Argentina to 4.3 % from 5.7 %; and in Colombia to 32.9 % from 34.2 % of the population.
In Mexico, poverty rose slightly in 2012 to 37.1 % from 36.3 % a year earlier.
“Shortages like the lack of access to drinking water or to appropriate sanitation systems still affect a significant number of people in the region. That makes one wonder if the public policies intended to overcome poverty put enough emphasis on the achievement of minimum standards,” says the report, adding that “high inequality still defines the region in the international context.”
The report also noted that governments in the region are attempting to curb the expansion of social spending to bolster public finances.