Economy

Coronavirus crisis in Latin America is worsened by poverty and inequality, says ECLAC

Countries in LatAm that suffer from the coronavirus crisis will have their problems exacerbated by the increase in poverty, according to ECLAC

Photo: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
  • ECLAC said that social unrest is on the rise across the region;
  • According to ECLAC, poverty surge sets Latin America back over a decade and extreme poverty has reached the highest level in 20 years in Latin America.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that suffer from the coronavirus crisis will have their problems exacerbated by the increase in poverty and inequality and the weakening of social safety nets, said the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), this Thursday.

ECLAC, an agency of the United Nations (UN), said that social unrest is on the rise across the region, in a sign that immediate action is needed to help hard-hit countries that were already in dire straits long before the pandemic.

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“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are widespread in all areas of human life, changing the way we interact, paralyzing economies, and generating profound changes in societies,” said the report.

According to ECLAC, poverty surge sets Latin America back over a decade and extreme poverty has reached the highest level in 20 years in Latin America, reported Financial Times. Besides, if it were not for the government’s stimulus and aid programs, ECLAC estimates that Latin America would have another 21 million living in poverty, higher than the entire population of Chile, 19 million, says Valor Econômico.

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The agency said that persistently high levels of inequality, combined with a growing informal labor market that leaves workers unprotected and a lack of effective health coverage, have aggravated these problems.

The slums on the outskirts of many cities in the region often lack access to basic services, which means that many citizens find themselves unable to obtain the food, water, and health care needed to confront the crisis.

Poverty, in turn, increases, while progress in reducing inequality stalls, exacerbating trends seen in the five years before the crisis.

During this period, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean grew by an average of only 0.3% per year overall, while extreme poverty rose from 7.8% to 11.3% of the population and poverty was 27.8% % to 30.5%.

The report also said that the prolonged closure of schools in the region could constitute a “generational catastrophe” that will only deepen inequality.

The pandemic has also caused an increase in mortality that could reduce life expectancy in the region, depending on how long the crisis lasts, the agency said.

So far, there have been at least 21,699,000 infections reported and 687,000 reported deaths from the new coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Of every 100 infections reported in the world lately, about 24 have emerged in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

(Translated and co-written by LABS)

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