ECLAC: Poverty Alleviation Has Stalled in Latin America

Efforts to lift people out of poverty in Latin America have stalled since 2012, with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) finding 28% of the …

A view of a slum settlement in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Efforts to lift people out of poverty in Latin America have stalled since 2012, with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) finding 28% of the region’s inhabitants living in poverty at the end of 2014.

According to the latest study by the ECLAC, extreme poverty or indigence rose to 11.7% in 2013 from 11.3% in 2012. Projections indicate that in 2014 that figure likely increased to 12%, which means that of the 167 million people who were poor that year, 71 million suffered extreme poverty.

The UN agency says the recovery from the international financial crisis does not seem to have helped Latin Americans alleviate poverty. On the other hand, decreased social spending from 2012 onwards has stalled poverty alleviation.

“Now, in a scenario of a possible reduction in available fiscal resources, more efforts are needed to fortify these policies, establishing solid foundations with the aim of fulfilling the commitments of the post-2015 development agenda,” said ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena.

Yet a few countries have successfully reduced poverty. They include Paraguay (to 40.7% in 2013 from 49.6% in 2011), followed by El Salvador (to 40.9% in 2013 from 45.3% in 2012), Colombia (to 30.7% in 2013 from 32.9% in 2012), Peru (to 23.9% in 2013 from 25.8% in 2012) and Chile (to 7.8% in 2013 from 10.9% in 2011).

The study assessed five areas of life: housing, basic services, education, employment and social protection, and standard of living (which refers to monetary income and the possession of durable goods). A person is considered poor if he or she is lacking simultaneously in these areas.

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Between 2005 and 2012, the extreme poverty level decreased to 28% from 39% of the population, with the biggest drops seen in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela.

The UN agency is of the view that eliminating gender inequality would spur declines in poverty levels by up to 12%, especially in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Similarly, elimination of income gaps between men and women would allow Bolivia to reduce poverty by 14%.

The good news is that the region has made significant progress in terms of elementary education. But educated youths are finding it hard to get jobs. Worse still, they have less social protection than adults and they are among the main victims of murder in region, which hosts seven of the world’s 14 most violent countries.

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