LATIN AMERICA

Half of Latin Americans are poor or at risk of falling into poverty

Around 28% of region’s population already impoverished, while 19% of its workers are poor

A shantytown in Buenos Aires.
A shantytown in Buenos Aires.Ricardo Ceppi

Half of Latin Americans are poor or at risk of becoming poor, a new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has found.

The statistic is especially worrying for a region that, at the beginning of this century, was growing as it had rarely done in its history and reducing large disparities. ECLAC’s new report is based on studies carried out in 2013, meaning before this year, when the Argentinean economy plunged for the first time since the 2002 crisis.

We are concerned about this strong relapse into poverty. This has to do with the job market in the service and informal sectors” Chief Economist in the Bureau for Latin America George Gray Molina

ECLAC warns that “poverty reduction has stalled since 2012 and extreme poverty is slightly on the rise.” By 2014, 167 million or 28% of Latin Americans were living in poverty. Seventy-one million of those, or 12% of all the poor, live in extreme poverty, meaning that they do not have enough money to buy basic foodstuffs.

Chief Economist in the Bureau for Latin America George Gray Molina says: “We are very concerned about this strong relapse into poverty. This has to do with the job market in the service and informal sectors.”

“Children, women, young people, the elderly, disabled individuals, indigenous groups and people of African descent are those who suffer the most from discrimination, shortages, and the privation or violation of rights in the region,” ECLAC says.

More information

Seven percent of the population who are neither of indigenous or African descent are in extreme poverty or at high risk of becoming so. This number rises to 11% in the case of blacks and to 18% for indigenous people. While 33% of indigenous people and 56% of those of African descent are considered not to be at risk of falling into poverty, 62% of the rest of the population is not at risk. And women only have access to 38% of the wealth in the region.

The workplace is the most decisive area that produces, exacerbates or mitigates inequality, the document says. Salaries account for 80% of all household income. They make up 74% of household income in poor families and 64% in groups suffering from extreme poverty. Yet about 18.9% of all workers live below the poverty line. “Thus the importance of having access to high-quality productive employment and decent work,” the organization says.

Translation by Dyane Jean François.