Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.
6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay
Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.
Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.
Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.
Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.
Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.
Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.
Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.
Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.
– Seunghee Han