Between 1990 and 2010 the poverty rate in Latin America dropped by 17 percentage points from 48.4 percent to 31.4 percent, while the indigence rate fell by 10.3 percentage points from 22.6 percent to 12.3 percent, according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Both indicators are at their lowest levels in 20 years, said the commission.
The publication “Social Panorama of Latin America 2011” presented in Santiago, Chile, said that the poverty level will drop to 30.4 percent in 2011, while the indigence rate will increase slightly to 12.8 percent because the rise in food prices would counteract the predicted rise in household incomes. The indigence rate is what Costa Rican officials call extreme poverty.
The region is expected to close this year with 174 million inhabitants living in poverty, 73 million of which are living in extreme poverty. In 2010, there were 177 million poor, 70
million of which were living in indigence.
According to the commission, the decrease in poverty is primarily due to an increase in labor income. Public monetary transfers also contributed, but to a lesser extent.
“Poverty and inequality continue to decline in the region, which is good news, particularly in the midst of an international economic crisis. However, this progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labour markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors, without social protection,” warned Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the commission.
Between 2009 and 2010, significant drops in poverty rates were observed in five countries: Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia, according to the report.
Honduras and Mexico were the only countries with significant rises in their poverty rates (1.7 percent and 1.5 percent).