Legalizing Marijuana in UruguayWhile countries around the world debate the possibilities of marijuana decriminalization or legalization, Uruguay has taken action. Within its borders, the drug is entirely legal for both medical and recreational purposes. Since legalizing marijuana in Uruguay in 2013, the country has seen decreases in drug trafficking rates and increases in annual GDP. Uruguay’s story can serve as a guide to the international community as an example of a country that has seen relative success after legalizing marijuana.

Why and When Uruguay Legalized Marijuana

Uruguay, known for its egalitarianism and economic policies, made history as the first country to legalize marijuana in 2013. In contrast to the U.S.’s “war on drugs,” former President Jose Mujica called the choice an “intellectual experiment.” The president aimed to explore a more equal, productive alternative to the practices of most Western countries.

However, in making this change, Uruguay didn’t simply open the floodgates for the sale and distribution of all kinds of marijuana. Instead, it put strict regulations in place. Buyers must register with the government, there is a purchase limit of 10 grams a week and only Uruguayan pharmacies can sell the drug in most cases. So, consumption and distribution are highly regulated by the Uruguayan bureaucracy.

Aside from the 12 state pharmacies selling marijuana in the country, only two private firms are set to initially contract with and supply Uruguay with marijuana. These firms are Simbiosys and the International Cannabis Corporation (ICC).

Economic Effects of Legalizing Marijuana in Uruguay

While the state runs the majority of the marijuana business and sees relatively low profit margins, both the national and international communities economically benefit from legalization. State-sanctioned pharmacies retain 30% of their final profits and investments from Simbiosys and the ICC. As of late 2018, about 7,000 Uruguayans registered with the state for home cultivation.

Lowering overall prices and allowing for legal home cultivation have produced significant benefits. The decision to legalize marijuana in Uruguay has led to a large decrease in overall drug trafficking and drug traffic systems. Legal consumption has removed many from the path of illegal consumption. Because poverty and drug abuse do correlate in certain cases, Uruguay’s choice to legalize marijuana can helped impoverished people escape unhealthy lifestyles.

Looking forward, the Uruguayan government aims to internationally expand their cultivation and production to bring in a larger annual profit. Since beginning to export internationally in 2019, Uruguay doubled exports to 7.3 million in a year. Further, increasing exports from international and newly opening markets only aids Uruguay’s greater and impoverished population. With increased funds from marijuana exports, Uruguay can better fund existing egalitarian and social welfare programs.

What Can Be Learned from Uruguay’s Story

Uruguay’s marijuana model aims to create conditions where marijuana use isn’t rampant. It’s affordable, procedural and normalized. This is because of the given restrictions, which include banning mass advertising for marijuana and state pharmacies selling the drug at a significantly lower price than on the black market. For countries looking to cut down on black market sales, incarceration rates and drug trafficking, Uruguay’s experiment shows interesting signs of social and economic wellbeing. The decision to legalize marijuana in Uruguay boosted the economy and stands poised to improve the lives of citizens.

– Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Pixabay

Aid in Uruguay
Among all of the Latin American countries, Uruguay is unique for numerous reasons. Compared to many other countries located in the Americas, Uruguay has a fairly high per capita income. Rates of inequality and poverty are extremely low in Uruguay and extreme poverty itself is virtually nonexistent. Uruguay’s middle class is vast compared to other nations in the Americas. Its middle class makes up more than 60% of the country’s population. Uruguay’s economy has been so successful that back in 2013, the World Bank gave Uruguay the status of a high-income country. Given how successful Uruguay’s economy has been, it seems hard to believe that the country would need any form of aid. However, U.S. aid in Uruguay is prevalent in the country, and it benefits the people of Uruguay and the other nations in the Americas.

The US/Uruguay Relationship

The relationship between the U.S. and Uruguay dates back to 1867. The relationship between the two countries is incredibly strong due to its longevity. Both the U.S. and Uruguay have aligned values. Among these is the importance of democracy, viable economic policies and protection of the environment. Because of the long-existing relationship between the two countries and their similar values, it is less surprising that there is U.S. aid in Uruguay.

The Purpose of US Aid in Uruguay

There are two main reasons the U.S. gives aid to Uruguay. One is to encourage Uruguay to take active involvement in international affairs. The other is to help Uruguay improve security within its borders. Uruguay might be a high-income country, but its military is not fully professionalized. The aid that the U.S. provides can allow Uruguay to develop its military further, which would help strengthen the country’s security. Doing so will also allow Uruguay to help in international affairs. Uruguay has a long history of helping with peacekeeping missions and has provided vast amounts of personnel to peacekeeping operations conducted by the United Nations (U.N.). These peacekeeping operations allow Uruguay to help its neighbors in the Americas.

Economic Partnership

Both the U.S. and Uruguay have economic partnerships as well. According to the most recent available data, the U.S. had $1.6 billion of foreign direct investment in Uruguay in 2017. Around 120 U.S.-owned businesses are in operation in Uruguay as well. While Uruguay’s economy is in a healthy state, the economic relations with the U.S. ensure that it can maintain its economy with help from a reliable ally.

US Support of Uruguayan Education

U.S. aid in Uruguay has also come in the form of education. Uruguay has been a full supporter of Fulbright programs for some time. The Fulbright Commission and its programs allow students from various countries to study abroad. The Uruguayan government contributes $500,000 annually in support of these programs. This monetary support allows Uruguayan students to obtain scholarships that will allow them to travel to the U.S. to pursue postgraduate studies.

The Uruguayan government also spends up to $100,000 for English teachers to assist Uruguayan students in learning English. Studying in the U.S. is beneficial for Uruguayan students and any other students as well. Obtaining new knowledge will allow these students to return to their home country and obtain well-paying careers. This, in turn, will be beneficial for the economy of the home country.

The U.S. aid in Uruguay and the economic relationship that both countries share are beneficial for both sides. In particular, Uruguay can strengthen itself and be a servant of peace in the Americas. The economic relationship that Uruguay has also allowed the country to maintain its healthy economic state.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in UruguayAt the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay had some of the lowest infection rates in Latin America. On June 30, 2020, Bloomberg reported that while its bordering country Brazil had 1.34 million total cases, Uruguay had only 932 cases. Now, about a year later, COVID-19 vaccination rates in Uruguay are among the highest in Latin America, with more than four million doses received by citizens.

Impacts of COVID-19 in Uruguay

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay’s unemployment rates have increased dramatically. In March 2020, more than 86,000 citizens applied for unemployment insurance. Before the pandemic, applications averaged 11,000 per month. A complete vaccination rollout is critical for Uruguay’s citizens to return to work.

Uruguay has already started to reopen businesses, but since only about half of the country has been vaccinated, infections are increasing. In order to avoid another shutdown of the country and another fall in employment, efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay need to receive continued support and funding.

Vaccine Success

On June 8, 2021, Uruguay released reports about the success of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine along with more information about the Pfizer vaccine. According to Reuters, Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% successful in preventing intensive hospitalization and death. Further, the vaccine reduced COVID-19 infections by 61%. The Pfizer vaccine was 94% effective in preventing intensive care hospitalization and death and 78% effective in reducing COVID-19 infections.

Increasing COVID-19 Cases in Uruguay

COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay has been very successful so far, with 52% of the population given at least one dose of either the Sinovac, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines. Despite this success, Uruguay is also facing a crisis as COVID-19 infections skyrocket.

For several weeks in late May and early June 2021, Uruguay had one of the highest global COVID-19 related death rates per capita. In the last week of May 2021, the small nation of just 3.5 million residents recorded an average of 55 deaths per day. Many experts blame public health guidelines that have become increasingly lax as the pandemic continues. Not enough of the population is vaccinated to support the less restrictive public health measures and Uruguay is now rushing to further increase its vaccination rates.

Global Support

The United States is working with COVAX to improve the vaccine rollout around the world, which might help Uruguay. COVAX is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, Gavi and UNICEF. Its goal is to vaccinate at least 20% of every participating country’s population by the end of 2021. NPR notes that it may not be able to meet this goal due to the global vaccine shortage. Wealthier countries that have already secured enough vaccines for their populations need to step in to help struggling countries with vaccine donations.

Supporting the Global Vaccine Rollout

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are many ways in which organizations can support the global vaccine rollout. First, it is important that there is a level of trust between citizens and the distributors of the vaccine. Many people are hesitant about vaccines because they do not necessarily trust the intentions of vaccine developers. With trustworthy messengers such as community leaders and trusted organizations working to combat vaccine hesitancy, people may be less reluctant to receive a vaccine.

Second, the delivery of vaccinations requires innovation. A major problem for those in rural and low-income areas is a lack of access. Many cannot travel far to receive a dose, therefore, investing in creative ways to deliver vaccines to remote locations is important. For example, implementing mobile vaccination sites.

Finally, supporting the training of local healthcare workers in contact tracing, COVID-19 education and vaccination means more people will be qualified to address the pandemic. Thus, COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay can continue long after global organizations leave the area, ensuring efforts are sustainable. With private and public sector groups working together, combating the COVID-19 pandemic and improving global health is not a distant goal.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Uruguay
Uruguay has recently increased its national response to violent and organized crime after seeing an increase has included the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people. To help end human trafficking in Uruguay, the government is taking steps to increase awareness and identification about the practice and its victims.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the transfer of persons through the use of force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, often involving forced labor or sex work. Around 10% of human trafficking occurs in Latin America, accounting for over $1 billion of the money traffickers make throughout the world.

Where Uruguay Stands

A small country of over 3.4 million bordering Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has historically had one of the lower crime rates in South America. Despite this, the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report categorizes Uruguay as a Tier 2 country, which it has been for the last five years. The report, which the U.S. State Department publishes, consists of three primary tiers. The first denotes that a country is making sufficient effort to end human trafficking and the third signals that a country is making little to no effort.

In 2019, Uruguay identified 83 new victims of human trafficking; this number is down from the 95 victims it identified in 2018. Shelters and other services are available for victims, however, most resources like these are only in the capital of Montevideo. Victims identified in other areas of the country face additional challenges because of this.

Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls, who are often from vulnerable communities. Poverty is one of the leading risk factors that experts associate with human trafficking, meaning that in addition to direct responses to human trafficking, reducing poverty can also be a form of prevention.

What Uruguay is Doing

As a Tier 2 country, Uruguay still has room to improve its handling of human trafficking but is making significant efforts to advance the quality of its response and resources for victims. Primary among these is the country’s National Action Plan in 2018, which involved the creation of a committee focused on ending human trafficking in Uruguay.

Besides raising public awareness about the issue, Uruguay is also training law enforcement and other officials on how to recognize human trafficking when it occurs and provide help. A national hotline is also now available 24 hours a day. Uruguay is also providing access to shelters and services for victims outside of Montevideo as an ongoing effort to end human trafficking in the country.

Civil society and the public have also made their voices heard on the topic, including former victims. In the summer of 2019, Sandra Ferrini, who experienced trafficking as a teenager, made a powerful statement as she led the country’s first march against human trafficking.

Potential Improvements

The efforts that Uruguay is enacting to prevent and educate about human trafficking have improved the country’s situation, but it still needs to do more work. The Trafficking in Persons report made several recommendations for Uruguay to continue improving its efforts.

One area the recommendations focused on was improving the long-term support for victims. Suggestions included more funding for shelters, particularly in areas outside of the capital Montevideo. Programs for social reintegration are also a promising form of support, including those that focus on vocational training.

The report also recommended that Uruguay pursue more prosecutions of the people running human trafficking. Cases against traffickers have increased in the last few years, with 18 cases undergoing prosecution in 2019 compared to just 10 a few years before. Increasing prosecution can further hold perpetrators accountable and decrease trafficking in Uruguay.

With further engagement on the issue from both the government and the public, Uruguay can improve services for victims and significantly reduce human trafficking within its borders.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

How Uruguay Was Prepared to Combat COVID-19Uruguay is a small country in South America bordering Brazil and Argentina. The country has a population of nearly 3.5 million people and has solved many poverty issues that still plague other South American countries. Uruguay’s life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality rates, literacy rate and health system capacity are all at or near the levels of those statistics in the United States and Western Europe. The country’s situation today as a high-income country is a direct result of its unique history. Through Uruguay’s economic standing and prepared response to the pandemic, the country was prepared to combat COVID-19.

Uruguay’s History and Financial Situation

Uruguay, despite being located in South America, is more comparable to countries in Europe and not without reason. In the pre-colonial era, the entire region likely had a population of only around 10,000. Diseases brought by the first settlers in the 17th century killed most of that small population and so the area was left largely empty save for a few scattered groups of native people. After more than a century of fighting over the territory between colonial powers, Uruguay gained independence in 1830 and began to become a modern state by the 1870s.

In the late 19th century, hundreds of thousands of Europeans emigrated to Uruguay, bringing with them economic connections to the continent as well as better agricultural knowledge which kickstarted the country’s economy. Throughout the 20th century, despite some political conflicts, Uruguay made strides at becoming a developed country and brought its extreme poverty rate to the single digits. Since the early 2000s, the country has seen significant reductions in poverty and large improvements in healthcare capability and overall quality of life.

In a span of just 12 years from 2006 to 2018, the poverty rate in Uruguay decreased from more than 30% to 8%, while the extreme poverty rate went from 2.5% to 0.1%. Uruguay diversified its economy from one mostly reliant on its neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, to splitting its most important trade partners four ways, with China and the European Union becoming its two largest partners. Its success in creating a working, safe democracy in the 21st century has opened up the country as a popular tourism destination and tourism now accounts for nearly 10% of Uruguay’s GDP. Uruguay maintains the largest middle class in the Americas consisting of more than 60% of its population, fueling economic growth as most people in the country hold savings and can afford to buy consumer goods.

Uruguay’s Prepared Response to COVID-19

All of Uruguay’s recent economic success has allowed the country to create a well-functioning healthcare system capable of keeping its citizens healthy. Its history and geographical small size have led the country to be prepared to combat COVID-19. Uruguay’s health system, a mix of public and private care which also allows the lowest-income residents of the country to get high-quality care at low or zero-cost, was prepared to handle a crisis. Broad support for the government meant that at the start of the pandemic, citizens trusted their public health officials and followed the guidelines they put out.

The Uruguayan health system, unlike most others in South America, also had the capability to make its own COVID-19 PCR tests from the start of the pandemic—allowing public health officials to contact trace early cases. In May, when a region of Uruguay bordering Brazil saw a small outbreak, the public health response was immediate. As described by Dr. Rafael Radi, the coordinator of Uruguay’s scientific advisory group, “Within 24 hours there was a contingent of people—epidemiologists, nurses, physicians went to Treinta y Tres to completely follow the transmission chain, test every single person and follow up the contacts of the contacts.” Such strong measures make it difficult for the virus to gain a hold in the country.

Despite being located right next to Brazil, a COVID-19 hotspot, Uruguay was able to combat COVID-19 and reopen its internal economy quickly. Masks are required indoors and on public transport and are encouraged everywhere else. Most schools and universities in the country are open with in-person classes. To date, Uruguay has reported fewer than 3,000 cases of COVID-19 and 52 deaths. Already achieving high-income status, if Uruguay can continue its economic growth post-COVID-19 and improve its education system to train its youth for the future, the country is well on its way to being a truly developed nation on par with other small countries like Singapore and Ireland.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in UruguayAmid a global pandemic, finding hope is a grueling task. As the number of COVID-19 cases around the world passes 11 million, the economy continues to decline and workers and students are struggling to interact strictly online, people continue to ask themselves: what should we have done differently? From strict workplace policy to reduced flights, it is painfully clear that the world has changed in a multitude of ways. What is unclear is what will work in the future for both public health and the economy. There are very few countries that have fully recovered since the initial outbreak of COVID-19; however, one country has truly beaten the odds during this pandemic with exceptional grace: the developing nation of Uruguay. 

Despite sharing a border with Brazil, a coronavirus epicenter, the nation has not had more than 100 active cases for nearly 30 days. As part of the slow reopening of the country, there have been lots of changes in the daily life of the people, local businesses and the nationwide culture. Consequently, the spread of the COVID-19 in Uruguay has been kept to a bare minimum. In fact, since the initial outbreak, Uruguay has reported Compared to the 3 million cases in the United States alone, these shocking numbers have left American policymakers wondering where exactly they went wrong.

How They Did it

The incredibly low rate of the COVID-19 in Uruguay is not the result of luck or chance. Rather, it is the result of a well adjusted and thoughtful policy that puts the health and safety of the people first. Luis Lacalle Pou, the President of Uruguay since March 2020, was faster to act than the leaders of their neighboring countries. He issued a voluntary lock-down and moved to close down the nation’s borders only a few weeks after taking his position in the office. At the time, these bold initiatives were considered to be premature to dozens of other nations. However, acting early significantly slowed the spread of COVID-19 in Uruguay.

Officially, the nation has made a number of changes in order to maintain public safety. Uruguay has closed its borders until an undetermined date, and the Ministries of Health and Interior have encouraged the public to self-quarantine while those 65 years and older have been mandated to self-quarantine. 

In addition to the early actions on part of the Pou administration, the overall structure of the nation has contributed to the low spread of the deadly disease. The low population density makes daily life easier when performing essential tasks such as grocery shopping. Since Uruguay is only roughly the size of the American state of Missouri, with a population of only around 3.45 million people, social distancing is a much simpler process compared to neighboring Latin American countries, European nations or the United States. 

The Impact

Given the incredibly low spread of the COVID-19 in Uruguay, the Latin American oasis has been able to make the return to normal life. Recently, Uruguay became one of the first countries in the Americas to reopen smaller schools in rural regions. This has allowed kids in the poorer areas of the nation to continue to receive the education that they need even during a pandemic. Nearly 700,000 children have been able to return to school with the nation’s new educational initiative with a rotation between online and in-person classes. 

With the continual efforts from the current administration and healthcare workers, it is expected that people will be able to return to work soon. Additionally, with millions of people able to come back to work, the economy is likely to bounce back from the global recession in a stronger position than dozens of other nations. The small nation of Uruguay has proven itself to be one of the most resilient nations in the world during these unprecedented times. The Uruguayan people have given the rest of the world hope that the return to normalcy is closer than expected if the proper precautions are taken. 

 Daniela Canales
Photo: Pixabay

poverty in Uruguay
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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Uruguay
Uruguay is a country of around 3.4 million on the east coast of South America. Uruguay’s government has invested highly in its public education system, as evidenced by its high literacy rate of 98.6 percent for the population, progressive policies for equitable education and free college. This article highlights 8 facts about the current picture of education in Uruguay in addition to education policy.

8 Facts About Education in Uruguay

  1. Primary, secondary and public university education are free of cost. The affordability of public education is largely responsible for Uruguay’s high literacy rate of 98.6 percent, roughly comparable to that of the United States.
  2. Unlike the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) countries, an autonomous administration creates and implements Uruguay’s education policies rather than a ministry of the executive branch. This means that Uruguay has a highly centralized education system with the National Public Education Administration (ANEP) overseeing all public schools from preschool through university. The Ministry of Education and Culture regulates only private preschools and private universities; the ANEP creates all public education policy.  However, ANEP does not clearly define the role of the central authority as opposed to the many sectorial education councils, and therefore, there is a lot of internal competition that results in bureaucratic inefficiency.
  3. Education is compulsory from ages six to 11, and thus, the Uruguayan people have universally achieved primary education. All children in Uruguay receive a free primary school education and the majority of children also receive a non-compulsory preschool education at ages four and five.
  4. Less than one-third of Uruguayans complete secondary school and this rate is increasing more slowly than in other Latin American countries. In 2017, only 56 percent of adults over 25 had a middle school education in Uruguay, and only 30 percent had graduated from secondary school.
  5. The average Uruguayan will spend 16 years in school, but they will also repeat grades. Both Uruguayan and American students will spend an average of 16 years in school, but Uruguay’s grade repetition rate is high compared to other Latin American and international countries. Grade repetition is why students in Uruguay will spend so long in school, but still, only half will finish middle school.
  6. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds complete school at much lower rates, but the government has responded by placing a heavy emphasis on social equity in education policy. Uruguay has increased funding and resources for low-income primary and secondary schools, as well as introduced targeted programs for at-risk students to encourage them to stay in school.
  7. Uruguay has invested heavily in its education system, but emigration has prevented the country from reaping the rewards of this investment. Some of the most successful students choose to leave Uruguay for better career prospects in the United States or Spain. Currently, around 18 percent of Uruguayans live abroad.
  8. Uruguay’s student-teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the world. With a classroom student-teacher ratio of 13.8 to one, Uruguay approaches the small classroom sizes of countries like Sweden and Iceland. Small class sizes often contribute to greater student success as they allow for every student to have more one-on-one attention from the teacher.

Uruguay’s education system is far from perfect, but the government has worked hard to promote education, make it accessible to all and empower those with fewer resources to gain an education as well. Overall, the country still has work to do, but its education system has achieved a lot of success and every year more people graduate with high school and college degrees than the last.

– Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in UruguayWithin the past few decades, Uruguay—a small country with a population of about 3 million—has managed to reduce its moderate poverty rate from 25.5 percent in 1989 to 12.4 percent in 2012, and the extreme poverty rate from 3.3 percent to 0.5 percent over the same period. Because of the great reduction of poverty in Uruguay, the nation’s Human Development Index ranking is ever increasing, and it is seeing longer life expectancy and greater birth rates.

However, despite improved conditions for citizens of Uruguay, there is still anxiety among community members due to a long embedded history of fluctuations in the economy and government that have contributed to poverty-like phases for many. The last 40 years have been illustrated by a slow-moving economy, one that is not quick to adapt to change, but with moments of remarkable growth. Uruguay is uniquely addressing its poverty issues, some with successful outcomes and others with less positive consequences. Here are three ways poverty in Uruguay is being tackled.

  1. Economy
    Uruguay has been relatively successful in ramping up economic development, which has seemed to keep up with globalization. Gross Domestic Product increases in the late 80s have been able to sustain Uruguay through some economic downturns in recent history. This, coupled with social reform, is keeping extreme poverty low.
  2. Social Integration
    Uruguay still experiences marginalization and social disintegration, but has taken initiatives in the last few decades to bring these issues to public view. It has been argued that education is a key element is bringing many different demographics of people together and enabling students and families to take charge of their lives. From the early 90s to the present, referendums have been drafted regarding education and social reform as well as being a topic for political platforms.
  3. The Work Force
    Women have become more of a present figure in the job market, having the highest rate of participation in labor in Latin America. While the amount of active workers is higher than it has ever been, Uruguay still has relatively high unemployment rates. However, the Uruguay legal system is working toward slimming the gap between wage discrimination and job security rights among its citizens.

While Uruguayans are working toward a more stable economy and social reforms, there is clearly still some way to go. But, despite slow moving and small-scale changes, Uruguay is a positive example of poverty reduction efforts and there is growing hope for change in the South American nation.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr