This number represents the poorest of the 180 million who do not have sufficient income to cover their basic needs

Some 70 million people live in extreme poverty in Latin America

ONU Mujeres/Ryan Brown - Familia de una zona rural de Guatemala. (Archivo)
photo_camera UN Women/Ryan Brown - Family in rural Guatemala (File)

More than 181 million people live in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean - 29% of the population - and of these, 70 million - 11.2% of the population - live in extreme poverty, according to figures for the year 2022.

In its new Social Panorama report, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) explained that these numbers mark a decrease of more than one percentage point from the previous year and are at a similar level to 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this progress, the study warns that poverty will not be able to continue reducing over the next year, as regional Gross Domestic Product growth in 2023 will be only 1.7%, and that in 2024 it could reach only 1.5%, well below the 3.8% of 2022.

Therefore, there is no reason to celebrate, said the ECLAC executive secretary, pointing out that 70 million people cannot afford to buy a basic food basket.

One third of the population lives in poverty 

José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs pointed out that the data revealed means that "almost a third of the region's population lives in poverty, a percentage that rises to 42.5% in the case of children and adolescents, a reality that we cannot tolerate".

The head of ECLAC detailed that the incidence of poverty "is also higher among women, the indigenous population and people living in rural areas"


Half of the employed have informal jobs 

Regarding the employment situation, the analysis specified that of the 292 million employees in Latin America and the Caribbean, half have informal jobs and 20% live in poverty, while 40% have incomes below the minimum wage and half do not contribute to pension systems.

ECLAC explained that the increase in employment is positive but not sufficient to achieve labour inclusion. "Access to productive, well-paid jobs with access to social protection is needed, particularly for women and young people," it said.

In 2022, 54.2 million households in the region (39% of the total) depended exclusively on informal employment and the majority of children under 15 and people over 65 lived in households with income from informal or mixed employment (61.2%).  

Income inequality 

On income, the report highlighted inequality, noting that the top income decile earns 21 times more money than the bottom decile. In 2021, the wealth of just 105 people accounted for almost 9% of regional GDP.

In this sense, the head of ECLAC said that countries must move from labour insertion to labour inclusion, which is the axis of inclusive social development.

"But labour inclusion requires high and sustained economic growth. It is not possible to create a better future of work without creating a better future of production and vice versa," argued Salazar-Xirinachs. 

Women have lower labour force participation 

On the other hand, disaggregated data show that the labour participation rate of men was 74.5% in 2022, while that of women reached only 51.9%.

The main barrier to women's labour market inclusion is the burden of care work: the participation rate of women in households with children (61.6%) is lower than that of households without children (73.5%).

ECLAC reiterated that domestic work is one of the main sources of employment for women in Latin America, but the average income earned by its workers is half that earned on average by women in other jobs. 

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