According to ECLAC's Social Panorama of Latin America 2004:
Poverty Projections Show 1% Decline in Latin America
The latest poverty and indigence projections point to a slight improvement in 2004; the reduction will not be large enough to offset the deterioration of the three previous years.
(30 November 2004) Economic growth this year suggests that two million people have moved out of poverty in the region, according to Social Panorama of Latin America 2004 from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), released today by José Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of this United Nations body.
Poverty is estimated to have fallen by 1% since 2003, bringing the number of poor people to 224 million, 98 million of which are indigents. This took the number of people living under the poverty line to a level similar to that posted in 2001 (43.2%), with 18.9% indigent. In short, the new figures of poverty and indigence point to a slight improvement in 2004 though not large enough to offset the deterioration of the three previous years.
The 2004 edition of Social Panorama of Latin America summarizes trends in poverty and income distribution along with major demographic shifts, changes in family structure, and conditions affecting youth.
Since 2000, when 189 countries committed themselves to the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the number of poor people in Latin America has risen faster than the total population.
Figures for 2004 confirm that Chile is the only country that has met the Millennium goal of reducing extreme poverty. In Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay the percentages of progress toward compliance with the first goal are over 56%, but in Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela indigence appears to have risen above 1990 levels.
The data again confirm that the region has the worst income distribution in the world, with high and worsening inequality. The ECLAC report defines the characteristics of poverty and factors conspiring against effective social inclusion, including such diverse elements as household size and composition, the supply of human capital, participation in the labour market, and access to housing and basic services.
Fewer Children, More Seniors
The demographic transition has occurred in this region much more swiftly than in Europe. The population went from 161 million people in 1950 to 512 million in 2000, and will reach 695 million in 2025. Now life expectancy at birth is 72 years and the average fertility rate is three children per women.
Although some groups and countries still maintain high fertility rates, overall fertility has declined, with rates ranging from below replacement level to those such as Cuba, Guatemala and Haiti, with more than four children. However, the rate of teenage pregnancies remains worrisome, because of the many negative consequences: from 25% to 35% of young women, depending on the country, have their first children before they turn 20.
The demographic transition has brought with it two major changes: the decline in demographic dependence and the ageing population. This last will pose an enormous challenge to societies, since one of every four Latin Americans will be a senior citizen in 2050.
The rise in life expectancy at birth is an undisputed achievement and started with a decline in infant mortality from 128 deaths among children one year and younger for every 1000 born between 1950-1955 to 28 deaths in 2000-2005. The decline in infant mortality has occurred in every country, but indigenous and rural groups and children of less educated mothers are not as protected.
The number of deaths due to contagious diseases (infections, parasites and respiratory system) fell, although those due to chronic and degenerative diseases (of the circulatory system and malignant tumours) rose, as did those due to violence, accidents and traumas.
Emigrants Maintain Their Families
More than 20 million Latin Americans were living abroad at birth, an unheard of figure that reflects the rising migratory wave of the 1990s. Of these, 15 million are in the United States. The loss of human capital and the lack of respect for the human rights of migrants have stirred concern among the region's governments.
According to the report, almost two-thirds of emigrants send remittances to their families, making a substantial contribution to maintaining a growing number of households in several countries. It is estimated that in 2003 more than US$35 billion flowed into the region for this reason, a figure that for some countries represented 10% of GDP and more than 30% of exports. In six countries, more than 10% of the households receive these remittances.
Social Conditions of Young People and Families
The report underlines a series of tensions and paradoxes experienced by young people. Although they now have more access to education than adults, they have less chance of getting a job and access to power. With more expectations for autonomy than previous generations they nonetheless have no productive channels or institutions to channel these expectations.
The most obvious trend in the structure of the Latin American family is a rise in the number of households headed by women, especially in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Panama and the Dominican Republic. The traditional model of the nuclear family with the provider father, housewife mother, and children remains the most common, but it is not the prevailing model of the family in Latin America's urban areas.